by Suzan ne Daub
The islands of Nantucket and Lahaina have been intertwined since the early 1800s, when Nantucket whalemen first sailed to what would become a bustling port. In 1824, 100 whaleships visited the islands: by 1846, 736 stopped there, most of them from Nantucket or New Bedford.
Connections between Nantucket and Maui continue today, with residents who have moved from one island to the other and some who still maintain residences on both. The devastating fires that swept across the western side of Maui from August 8 to 12 burned thousands of acres, razed much of Lahaina, and [at press time] caused the deaths of nearly 100, with individuals still missing.
Greg and Judi Hill are among the many here who are heartbroken by the loss, trying to reach out to friends in Lahaina, and looking for ways to help. The Hills lived on Maui for more than a decade. “Jerry, a high school friend of Greg’s called and invited us to visit for a few weeks in 1974. We flew to Maui after Christmas, and stayed for 12 years,” Judi explained, “When we got off the plane the scent in the air.. the plumerias… I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was a paradise to us… the people were lovely… and it was our road to Nantucket.”
Having gotten “sand in their shoes” and deciding to stay, Greg first set up an easel on the sea wall in Lahaina and sold his paintings. Later, he became a member of the Lahaina Artists Association; they had a gallery in the Baldwin House; and Greg was represented in Lynn Shue’s Village Gallery in downtown Lahaina. Among the scenes Greg was painting at the time were Nantucket whaling ships in port there. “Greg was painting Nantucket ships before we ever came to Nantucket,” said Judi, “and Dot and Ed Hyde saw those paintings and reached out to Greg about showing in their Harbor Gallery on Nantucket.”
“We can’t wrap our heads around the losses,” Judi said with sorrow. “We cannot get hold of Jerry or Lynn. We did reach Mary Keller, and she’s okay.” (A recent update on the Village Gallery website states that Lynn and her staff are safe.)
After recovering a bit from the shock of the news, Greg and Judi started thinking of how they could help to raise money for the people they know and love on Maui. “Ohana they call it.” Greg pulled his entire Hawaii portfolio, and has put out for sale his watercolors of Maui, original pencil drawings, and original oil paintings all done there during the early 1980s. A significant portion of the proceeds are being donated to Maui Strong (hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/mauistrong), a fund with the goal of “providing financial resources that can be deployed quickly, with a focus on rapid response and recovery for the devastating wildfires on Maui.”
The artwork to benefit Maui can be seen and purchased in the G.S. Hill Gallery at 40 Straight Wharf or by calling them at 508-228-1353.
“Everyone will step up to the plate… it’s overwhelming, what this fire did. It feels like it erased something so special in a special place. They will survive!”