Evonne Howard Lee: remembered for her many community contributions

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Evonne Lee and her family pose at a family event. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Evonne Lee in an undated photo. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Evonne Howard Lee in a more recent photo. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Evonne Howard Lee takes a picture with Karyn Clay, owner of Ho’onani Place. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Evonne Howard Lee will be remembered as being very gracious and dedicated to her family and community. Born in 1925, she was one of 17 children in her family. Her daughter, Merle Ah Hee said her mother was always on the go.

“My mom was the type to give someone the shirt off her back,” Ah Hee said. “She was also a very honest and caring person.”

At about the age of 16, her parents died and she dropped out of school to help with the family. Her lack of early education never stopped her though, and and after she got married, she moved with her husband Frank Howard and two children to Parker Ranch in Waimea. Very active in the community, she taught ballet, gave swimming lessons, was a girl scout leader and coordinated activities for Hawaii Episcopal Academy, now HPA. She was also a substitute teacher at Kawaihae School and Pu’uanahulu School when they existed.

“She loved rifles and would skeet shoot as a sport,” said Ah Hee. “And in her earlier years, she loved to hunt on Mauna Kea for sheep, goats and birds.”

Lee went back to school and earned various degrees in Hawaiian Studies, horticulture and geology. She knew a lot about Hawaiian plants and teas, and gathered many varieties of teas from the slopes of Mauna Kea to Hualalai along the ocean.

“She always shared her knowledge and would show here friends where they could gather leaves for tea,” said Ah Hee.

She also helped her second husband, John Lee, with a poi factory in Honaunau. She loved taking her grandchildren for overnight trips on a fishing boat, and Ah Hee remembers that the ocean was her passion.

Heavily involved with the Kawaihae Canoe Club, Lee was a great supporter of the club, although she never paddled herself.

Fond of children, Ah Hee said, “My mom would get the assistance of the boy scouts and set up a haunted house every Halloween,” Ah Hee said. “Our house was located where Foodland now stands.”

Lee taught at Kanu O Ka Aina prior to her stroke in 2004, and then was cared for at Ho‘onani Place, under the care of owner Karyn Clay.

“Evonne was a very optimistic woman who spoke positively about everyone,” Clay said. “If people played music, tutu would get her beautiful arm out there and dance. She was so graceful.”