A Return to Aloha by Doreen Bandy
Former BYU Hawaii Professor, Airborne Army Ranger, and Korean War Veteran Daniel Kane, and his wife Sheila, of Tennessee, returned to Hawaii after more than 43 years to watch their Grandson graduate from BYU Hawaii. During this trip, Dan wanted to return to Maui after many years and take the opportunity to cruise the coastline. It was during a drive on the Hana Highway that the Kane’s encountered trouble while attempting to avert a potential accident with another motorist. Sheila pulled over to a safe area of the road, and Dan took over her driving duties. It was when he pulled to a rest area 5 miles away that they realized just how much trouble they were in. However, it didn’t take long for a Hana Highway Hero to make his debut.
A 29-year (and counting) UPW Member and DLNR Employee William “Wade” Latham, was taking a break from work clearing trees at Kaumahina State Wayside Park when he heard the Kane’s rolling in with their disabled vehicle. He stopped to check on the couple and inquire if they needed help when he realized after further inspection that there was no spare tire, no jack, and no cell service. This was not Wade’s first rodeo as he has helped tens if not hundreds of motorists in the past. Quickly taking their rental car contract information, license, and contact number, Wade traveled 5 miles down the road within cell range and called the rental car company.
“When I called the company, I realized there was no local information to get a hold of them. It was on the mainland. I made sure to tell them how remote the area is that the elderly couple was stuck in and that it was going to get dark in an area with no lights,” according to Wade in my interview with him about the incident. I knew that if it was my Tutu that was stuck in the middle of nowhere, I would pray that somebody would be kind enough to help them in a scary situation. “
He left them with the information that although there was no cell service for a 5-mile stretch in either direction, the rental company knew where to send the tow truck, and that they guaranteed arrival within less than 3 hours. Wade continued on with his work until a gut feeling made him decide to circle back around at the end of the day.
“Usually tow trucks take 3 hours max to show up for stranded tourists. Since these people were older, and didn’t have any food when I left them, I went to check on them. I couldn’t believe they were still there!”
Wade stopped to talk to them and ask if anybody had been by at all. There was still no sign of a tow truck, and the hours that passed left Daniel and Sheila famished. Knowing that after so many hours had passed, Wade went home to get some snacks and water and made a call to the MPD Non-Emergency line to let them know about the motorists. In letters written to USA Today, DLNR, and to other media agencies, Sheila and Dan describe how their trip would’ve been overshadowed by the fear of having been stranded if it weren’t for their “guardian angel”.
Wade has worked for the Department of Land and Natural Resources for almost 30 years. He describes his passion for work and for helping people as an important part of his aloha spirit.
“I want to confirm that the aloha spirit is alive and well in Maui. Whether it is helping stranded motorists, or lost tourists, and sometimes teaching people to pull Taro. Even Gordon Ramsay!
My love for the land inspires me on a daily basis at work and always. I have pride in my work and when people come to our parks, I want them to feel in awe of how beautiful we keep Maui. Everyone I meet can be somebody who can be touched by aloha. I read once how just 10 minutes of laughter a day can make for a better outlook and a good night’s sleep.”
We can all agree that anyone that Wade encounters along their unplanned adventures, rests much easier at night knowing they have an angel on their side.
Read the national news story as it appeared in USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/01/30/hawaii-caretaker-helps-stranded-elderly-couple/11111998002/