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Jim Luckey’s legacy is all around Lahaina

By Staff | Jul 23, 2015

Lahaina lost one of its true heroes in the passing of James Luckey, 88, on July 12 in Oregon.

The full story will be told in the Lahaina News soon.

Luckey moved to Lahaina in 1972 and, out of a strong field of 23 applicants, landed the general manager position at Lahaina Restoration Foundation. His accomplishments in the next 25 years were amazing.

A bright and charismatic leader, friends said Luckey had a gift for networking, tapping into others’ talents, organizing projects and funding, and involving the local people in Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s efforts.

He came in at an important time in our recent history.

Historic Hale Pa’i (House of Printing) at Lahainaluna High School had a roof like Swiss cheese and was declared unsafe for human occupancy by the state in 1974.

Literally shaken apart by construction of a nearby apartment complex, in 1973 the U.S. Seaman’s Hospital at 1220 Front St. was essentially a pile of rubble with four partial walls standing.

And the now-vibrant Wo Hing Temple at 858 Front St. in the late 1970s was a sagging, neglected structure surrounded by weeds.

These museums that play a key role in telling Lahaina’s story might well be gone without Luckey and past and present members of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation.

Jim detailed the foundation’s remarkable efforts to save these sites, Hale Pa’ahao (Old Lahaina Prison) and Hale Aloha in his memoir called “Luckey Come Lahaina.” It’s a must-read for fans of Lahaina and its history.

Friendly yet firm, forward-looking and great storyteller, Luckey made Lahaina a priority in Maui County back when it was an isolated plantation town. He saw that history could make Lahaina more relevant as a tourist destination.

Friends remember Luckey walking Front Street with his trademark kukui nut lei and hat, greeting pedestrians as a sort of ambassador of Lahaina.

Theo Morrison, who now leads LRF, summed up Luckey’s legacy in saying, “He changed the face of Lahaina.”

Jim felt lucky for discovering this great town. We are equally fortunate for his many years of dedicated service.