Maui lost a treasure on December 30, 2019 in the form of Jan Dapitan. Her commitment to serving Maui and making this island a better place is legendary. She was our ‘Get ‘er Done” person, the person whom we would call to make, what we thought were mountains, move.
After moving from Alabama, where she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for social change, she decided that this island chain would be the baby she would take care of, and things in Hawaii were never the same again.
First and foremost Jan Dapitan was a mother who taught her children the value of community and love for the people and the land. She knew the support of her family and the community was always the key to her success. Jan’s tireless efforts to do what others thought was impossible for Maui, and eventually the state, would pave the way for many others to follow. Breaking not only physical barriers but mental stigmas’ and even racial lines, she knew that things would never get done without ‘community.’
Jan Dapitan was the driving force behind quarterly state wide cleanups, Get The Drift And Bag It!, a plethora of recycling ventures, the Wetland Protection Program, Adopt-A-Programs, The Road To Hana Clean Up, instillation of Peace Parks, Kanaha Native Plant Revitalization Program, the Dengue Fever Tire and Appliance Pick Up program, Park and Roadway Beatifications, the Kihei Community Complex (Kihei Youth Center, Kihei Community Library and Kihei Arts Council Maui Youth Theatre), the Velma Santos Community Center, and Hawaii’s Environmental Court just to name a few. Community support for the betterment of others was the backbone she leaned on, banked on and she was always thankful our community supported her and never let down.
Jan began her community service on Maui as a teacher at Baldwin High School later moving to the Mayors Office of litter control before being appointed the Director of Parks and Recreation by Mayor Elmer Cravalho during the 1970’s. She also worked at the state level as Hawaii’s first State Leader for Keep America Beautiful. These years steered a movement that has, in many people’s opinion yet to be matched.
Jan founded Community Work Day, which in the following decades, forever shaped and changed the out look of the word “environment” and evolved into the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Malama Maui Nui that we know today. She not only changed our physical environment with litter educational outreach, clean ups and instituting Keep America Beautiful, she also changed mind sets and improved our way of life.
In 2015 Jan Dapitan was nationally honored with the “Lady Bird Johnson Award,” the highest award given for volunteer recognition by Keep America Beautiful. Her work with the late Lt. Governor Jean King, Congress women Patsy Takemoto Mink, former UH Athletic Director Dr. Donnis Thompson, former Mayor and Governor Linda Lingle, Senator Roz Baker and many like figures have helped pave the way for countless women to stand and be empowered to make changes for the betterment of Maui, the state, and the world.
In 2017 a bench in her honor, made entirely of recycled plastic, was erected outside the Environmental Court at Hoapili Hale, the 2nd Circuit Court building in Wailuku.
Jan Dapitan is survived by her sisters, Barbara (Taylor) Davis, and Jeannine Wingard, and children Kalani (Janice) Dapitan and Kela (Ruth) Murchison. She is also survived by stepdaughters Charlotte Dapitan Figueroa, Ellen Dapitan Kaililaau, Kehau (Nick) Dapitan Samudio, Kina Dapitan and Luka (Wesley) Dapitan Ladera; stepsons Charles Jr., George (Dottie) Dapitan, Aukake (Peggy) Dapitan; 32 grandchildren, 62 great-grandchildren, 28 great-great grandchildren.
Jan Dapitan will always be remembered for her love for others, love for the way of life, and love for the land, which she dedicated her life to take care of. Mahalo Jan!
Thank you to Kalani Dapitan for helping me use a lot of your words to write this piece.
Image Credit: Kalani Dapitan