Anna Derby Blackwell

Anna Derby Blackwell
Monday, November 22, 2010

By the middle of my tenure as the first Executive Director of Moanalua Gardens Foundation (1972-82) we had gotten rid of H-3 - at least in Moanalua Valley. It was time to take the next step: to focus on environmental education in Moanalua. We were already giving slide shows in classrooms before taking school groups into Moanalua Valley; Lorin was part of our periodic attempts to teach the teachers by giving them talks and slide shows about what was important to know about Hawai`i. My then husband, Bob Howe, and I had hiked with Lorin on O`ahu and Molokai.

My Assistant to the Director, Hanaka`ulani Ferreira, told me one day (toward the end of 1977) that she was going to have to "go home" because her mother was failing. The problem was how to make sure that Hana would continue to have an income. "I know!" said I. "We'll eliminate your (Assistant) position and move all the administrative crap over to my side of the office. Then we'll hire an Education Coordinator and you won't be qualified for the position!" 30 seconds later: "I wonder if we could get Lorin Gill ..."

So I phoned him. He was in my office in two hours and on board in two weeks. We structured his salary on the basis of 35 hours/week so that he could continue to lead hikes to the Neighbor Islands and farther afield. And we were off!

The challenge then became to structure a program that would focus Lorin's immenses store of knowledge into manageable chunks. "It's all there in the resources" he'd say. "Yes, but Lorin, there are 15 resources about geology; 8 about climate; dozens about plants - their origins and uses - teachers can't wade through all of that! We have to help them absorb it so that they can use the materials with their students!" We gathered an Education Committee: Lokomaika`i Snakenberg (who was doing the same thing, or trying to, for the DOE), Harry Chun-Hoon, and others. Pinky Thompson and Beatrice Krauss were among our advisors.

Even the Prince Lot Hula Festival, the conception of Allen Napoleon and his wife Nalani Olds, was first offered in 1978 as a way to show off (hoike) the best of Hawaiian culture.

I left Moanalua and was succeeded by others; but Lorin went on to achieve the `Ohia Project and share it with teachers and others with a need to know. When the Foundation fell into disarray in the early years of this century, Lorin became a founding member of Papahana Kuaola, to gather the people who are able to continue the work we began 30 years before.

He'd been on board perhaps six months when he remarked to me one day "This is my last job. I've gone from Palama Settlement to hiking as an avocation; but this is what I want to do for the rest of my life: teach Hawai`i's kids about Hawai`i."