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In Gratitude for an Old Friend - Lahaina, Maui

Broomfield local Don Woodard has Close Ties to Lahaina.

Sometimes things hit too close to home. For Don Woodard, AKA “Moke,” that moment came with the tragic burning of Lahaina, Maui in August.

“I feel a deep depth of gratitude to the people and the state of Hawaii,” said Don. “Both my family and I have been fortunate to spend many days enjoying the people, customs, friendliness, and the many activities the islands offer.” 

In 1968-1969, Don was a student at the University of Hawaii on Oahu. In the spring of 1969, with a group of friends, he attended the Lahaina Whaling Spree. Although he expected this event to provide some historical whaling and cultural information, it was really more of a beer-drinking festival. Consequently, he partied at The Pioneer Inn and the Whales Tale Bar, directly across the street from the famous 150-year-old Banyan Tree, originally planted in 1873.

Just a few years ago, Don once again sat at The Pioneer Inn during the first week of May, toasting his 50-year reunion and celebrating cherished memories in Lahaina. The Whales Tale was originally on the ground level of the building, but a number of years ago it closed, and the building was remodeled. The second floor became The Front Street Grill & Bar, a favorite establishment for locals and tourists alike. He celebrated his 50-year reunion there as well, in memory of the Whales Tale!

Tragically, on August 9th, as the world watched with great sadness, news of the burning of Lahaina, Maui spread across the globe. The loss of life was heart-wrenching, and many people in Hawaii will be dealing with unbelievably sad situations for the foreseeable future.

The Pioneer Inn was built in 1901 and was the first accommodation open for travelers passing through the island of Maui and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the early part of the past century, whalers who docked their ships in Lahaina would eat and drink at the saloon, and for decades the inn was a favorite spot for locals to gather. Unfortunately, this historic building was completely destroyed in the fire.

Additionally, the aforementioned Banyan Tree was engulfed in flames. By some miracle, it was spared, and thanks to the love and hard work of volunteers, it seems that the Banyan Tree will be a silver lining amongst the devastation. In mid-September, new leaves were seen sprouting from the otherwise scorched local treasure—an enduring reminder of hope and resilience.

How Broomfield Can Help Rebuild

Sadly, the town of Lahaina and much of its rich history went up in flames. In addition to the large loss of life, the tragic fire burnt down most of the historical structures, sacred grounds, and artifacts from the past. This includes the Lahaina Heritage Museum, located in the historic Old Lahaina Courthouse. “With this total devastation, I feel like I have lost an old friend,” said Don. “After thinking of how I can help, I have decided to create a three-piece collection of high relief, mixed media artworks depicting scenes of Lahaina and the Hawaiian Islands.” The first artwork will be titled, The Pioneer Inn, and the artwork collection will be donated to raise funds for the people of Lahaina. Metal print reproductions will be available, and the profits will be donated to the Hawaii Community Foundation. Stop by and visit Don, AKA “Moke” at Life in the West in Broomfield to learn more about this unique and beautiful tribute, and how you can help the Lahaina recovery effort. While you’re there, ask him how he earned the nickname “Moke” during his time in Maui!

Don’s artwork is described as "Fine Art in Wood" and it is created by first drawing the image on paper, then transferring the image onto select woods with carbon paper, then hand carving the image. He creates both high and low relief images, then finishes them with fine detailed painting, using watercolor paints and stains. When completed, the artwork receives a coat of clear matte finish to seal the wood and protect the painting.

Lahaina was once the busiest whaling port in the Pacific Ocean. Many of the whalers were not keen on Hawaiian’s primary diet of poi and fish. So enterprising Hawaiians began growing potatoes and raising cattle for beef, which increased its overall farm production today. Due to the wasteful and crude practice, there is no whaling in Lahaina anymore. But visitors will hopefully once again, enjoy some of the best whale watching in the world from this historic town. 

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