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Unsung Heroes of the Year

Maui Weekly recognizes four extraordinary individuals who contribute tirelessly behind the scenes with passion and dedication to make a positive impact on Maui.

December 31, 2009
Trisha Smith

“I have taken a lot of fish from the reefs… I feel it is time for me to give back,” he said.

A leader in ethical and sustainable fishing, this ocean steward has played a vital role in a recent awareness movement concerning invasive fish species, including roi. This aggressive and despised fish carries harmful toxins and gorges itself on young reef fish—the ones we like to catch and eat.

After the first “Roi Roundup” tournament in July 2008, coinciding with the International Year of the Reef, Darrell and fellow skindivers organized monthly “Kill Roi Days” (KRD) to eradicate even more roi.

Article Photos

She makes a positive impact as one of Maui’s Unsung Heroes.

“Darrell the Roi Hunter” has put his abilities to good use and applauds the vigorous team efforts of his family, the divers, Maui Sporting Goods, the Mayor’s Office and Tri-Isle Resource and Conservation Development for making these tournaments successful.

“Roi Roundup is not just a spearfishing tournament; it has evolved into a movement of conservation,” said Tanaka.

The efforts of the KRDs and tournaments in 2009 have harvested approximately 2,000 roi from Maui’s leeward coastline, with 146 fish “saved” by each roi killed. So, nearly 29, 2,000 will not be eaten by roi in the next year. Caught fish are sent to the Maui Ocean Center for food or donated to science for ciguatera research.

The next tournament will be in May 2010. Email to get involved.

Emily Bott
Creating smiles and laughs wherever she goes, the “87-year-young” Emily Bott has been a hero over the years to countless children, including seven of her own.

Her daughter Kathy Platt, said her mother—a former Sacred Hearts nun—has been a “tremendous role model” her entire life, acting as the unsung Maui coordinator for the Make a Wish Foundation for as long as she can remember and an “indefatigable volunteer” within our hospital’s ER for more than two decades.

You might catch this former clown juggling or cruising the kids’ wards with her sidekick puppet Lampchop, or during the holidays volunteering for the Salvation Army and searching out those without family to join hers in celebration.

She also quietly supports at least 17 charities, and Kathy said she is continuously astonished by how positive her mother is and how broad her frame of reference is—“She really does know everything!”

John Tryggestad
I like to call Kīhei’s John Tryggestad “Mr. Goodwill Walking.” From the moment you meet this retired Twinkie truck driver from Minnesota, he warms your heart.

John moved to Maui a year and a half ago to “live the honeymoon” permanently with “his bride of 23 years.”

Nearly every morning since then—he missed two days, which he’s not happy about—you can catch this tall, humble and pleasant soul trekking up and down all three Kama‘ole beaches, surrounding parks and along South Kīhei Road.

He picks up every single piece of trash along the way, including nearly 400 cigarettes butts daily. He uses the “special reaching tool” given to him by his friends and personal heroes, Bob and Lis Richardson—who refer to him as “the beach ambassador of South Maui.”

John joined South Maui Volunteers and the Kīhei Community Association and is also “the best friend” to one of “Maui’s best-kept secrets.”

Adventurer John loves books, especially romance novels, so it was only natural he would help clean up Pu‘unēnē’s Maui Friends of the Library and become their volunteer coordinator.

During his daily beach clean-ups, he loves to “talk story” with those he greets along the way, exuding his endless aloha spirit.

“In my retired years, this is my way of giving back.”

Dee Larson
Malama ‘āina is at the heart of Hawaiian values, and for passionate conservationists like Dee Larson, it’s the core concept of her being.

A conservation and restoration devotee since 1968, this longtime Maui resident and university graduate has become “one with the land,” striving to leave a legacy of open space.

Traveling Kīhei Road, you may unintentionally miss the stretches of land makai and mauka near Kalepolepo and the Kūlanihāko‘i gulch—a mixture of developed and undeveloped coastal land dunes. But the bohemian Dee has been working for over a decade on the Native Hawaiian plant restoration project adjacent to the Maui Lu called Keiki O Ka ‘Āina Eco Village—“a precious oasis; breathing space in the midst of development.”

It could have been another construction site, and Dee “gives kudos to” Betsill Brothers and researchers Forest and Kim Starr for their continual cooperation.

Volunteer Dee works diligently five days a week to preserve this coastal wilderness by removing invasive plants and propagating native species such as hinahina, ‘ahu‘awa, noni, ‘uhaloa, ‘aki‘aki grass, the dominate ‘akulikuli kai and many more. She works on the Laie Wetlands, too.

She does it “for the love of the ‘āina and the culture,” declaring that “aloha and salt water” run through her veins.



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