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Community loses Jeffrey Zaugg

By Staff | Feb 27, 2014


He is a cult hero – a Maui folk legend. His legal name is Jeffrey Zaugg, but if you asked for him here on the West Side by that name, you’d probably get a blank, perplexed response.

However, if you mentioned “Hulk,” the whole aura of the encounter would transform into a joyful interchange of the merriment that this man brought to the life and times of Lahaina from the 1970s forward.

Zaugg – excuse me, Hulk – nicknamed not for any ferocity of personality but for the barrel chest torso, large head and comic book demeanor – was part of the wave of California surfers/hippies to come ashore on Maui in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

He was one of the creatures that inhabited a place called the “Animal House” at the Puamana end of Front Street, and as a boarding center for the surf-crazed peace and love generation that invaded the Valley Isle at that time, they enjoyed the picturesque perfection of the waves at Shark Pit, Breakwall, Lahaina Harbor, Mala Wharf and on up the coast to Rainbows, Little Makaha and, ultimately, the dreamscape of Honolua Bay and further to the mysterious monsters at Windmills.

To pay the rent and have money for food, the surfers had to find work, so the night shift at local restaurants like the Lahaina Broiler (now Bubba Gumps) became the perfect lifestyle solution for them. Hulkie boy’s fun-loving personality fit perfectly into the social structure of the West Side with other transplanted comic book heroes he rode with, who had names such as “Wally Gator,” “Chuey” and the “Mole.”

The group moved up the road to the top of Front Street at the junction with Honoapiilani Highway and signed on with an up-and-coming restaurant chain called The Chart House – a company started by a group of surfer/skiers, including Joey Cabell – that created a unique dining experience based upon a simple steakhouse menu served at picturesque locales. Hulk and company became the core force of the wait staff that took the Lahaina Chart House to the top of restaurant popularity on Maui during the boom years of the 1980s while continuing to enjoy the easy-going lifestyle of the era.

They all had to grow up someday – it just took everybody a little longer to get serious about it. For Hulkie-boy, it took a little longer… about 25 years. He met the true love of his life, Sallie Cowan, and the young couple found a dream rental house at Kahana Cove across from the Robinson property. Love, work, surf – life was good for Sallie and Hulk.

Maybe it was just a dark sign of the times; maybe it was another forgettable example of the tension between local residents and the new wave generation, but it found the fairy tale story of their life nonetheless. Hulk was robbed and beaten at gunpoint in their Kahana home, left shaken and scared for himself, Sallie, and their roommates.

Hulk thought he needed a way to defend himself, so he researched the martial arts on Maui and found the Karate Association of Hawaii, Wailuku Dojo, headed up by Sensei Yasuto Yoshioka. He, along with friends Richard Straight, Neal Norris and Dave Barca indeed learned some self-defense, but under the stern guidance of Yoshioka Sensei, they experienced the life-enhancing epiphany of spiritual awareness at the core of the traditional martial art of Shotokan Karate-Do.

It was also a breakthrough of sorts, as Hulk and company were the first haoles from the West Side to enter the Wailuku Dojo club to endure and benefit from the sometimes harsh training regimen. They immersed themselves in the program and emerged ten years later with the coveted Dan (black belt) certificate. They earned the respect and friendship of Yoshioka Sensei and the seniors in the organization, which naturally served to improve any racial tension that might have existed.

The resume continued to grow as Hulk and Sallie purchased a home in Napilihau and soon thereafter had a son, Zachary. The karate practice progressed with Hulk earning Nidan (second degree black belt) ranking and rising to the Sempai (senior) level at the Wailuku Dojo. His commitment and dedication to Shotokan Karate-Do grew as he founded the Lahaina Dojo in 1988 to become the first of the world-renowned JKA to have a club on the West Side. As a result of Hulk’s effort, 26 years later, the Lahaina Dojo continues to flourish with some 50 active members ages five to 65.

Life changes continued for the Zaugg family, as they bought a new home in Kihei, young Zach grew up, Sallie went into real estate and Hulk started a mortgage business. The midlife cruise began but was interrupted two years ago, when Sallie became ill with cancer.

But just like the horror of the incident in the Kahana home, Sallie was buoyed in her battle with the insidious disease by the deep devotion and character of the Hulk. He has always been her rock when the challenges have arisen, and this battle would be no different. He would stand tall and strong by her side.

Two years later, the cancer was in remission, and Hulk decided to take care of a nagging knee problem and have replacement surgery. Following doctor’s advice, he got into better shape and went through with the surgery. About a week later, the incredible Hulk of Maui passed away in his sleep at home with Sallie by his side. He was 64 years old.

He leaves behind wife Sallie; son Zachary; brother Curtis (Cathy) Zaugg; sister-in-law and brother-in-law Nancy and Bill Cross; nieces Candace (Chris) Lanier, Kendall Cross, Danielle Zaugg and Sarah Zaugg; nephews Clayton Zaugg and Sammy Zaugg; and a Maui ‘ohana that will always remember this pono man.

A celebration of Hulk’s life and a paddle out scattering of ashes will take place at Airport Beach on Friday, Feb. 28, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The Zaugg and Cross families ask that you bring a pupu and a beverage to honor his loving memory. Please call 870-1044 for more information.

“It takes a lot to laugh; it takes a lot to cry,” wrote Bob Dylan back in the 1960s. Yes, the Hulk brought a whole lotta happiness to our lives, and we will surely shed many a tear in the dark hole of his loss. May God bless you always and peace be with you. Aloha… a hui hou.