STRANDED ELDERY COUPLE SINGLES OUT VETERAN STATE PARKS CARETAKER FOR EXTRAORDINARY HELP
News Release from DLNR, Jan 20, 2023
(Kahului, Maui) - A random act, actually continued acts of kindness, is bringing to light the Aloha spirit demonstrated by a long-time state parks worker.
When an elderly couple became stranded by a flat tire on the road to Hana in mid-December, DLNR Division of State Parks (DSP) Maui caretaker William ‘Wade’ Latham came to their rescue not once, but multiple times over the course of six hours.
In a letter sent to DSP, 88-year-old Dan and 77-year-old Sheila Kane of Tennessee, detail the circumstances that led to them being stuck alongside the narrow road on a rainy night with no phone service to call for help. What was developing into a nightmare ending to their Hawaiian vacation became one of its highlights.
Crossing a one-way bridge on the Hana Highway, another driver, who they say was in a big hurry, forced them off the side of the road. One of the tires on their rented convertible was sliced by a rock, and the trunk only had room for the car’s top -- no spare tire.
In a virtual interview Sheila said a few people stopped, but no one could offer help, until Wade came along.
For 30 years Latham has been keeping state parks across Maui clean and tidy. He is primarily responsible for three parks on the island’s east side, but like his co-workers he helps out in other parks across the Valley Isle.
Taking a break from helping clean up storm-felled trees in Mākena State Park, Latham says he made five trips from the Kane’s disabled car to his home, five miles away, to make calls on their behalf. He called the rental car company, multiple tow truck operators, an auto club and even the Maui Police Department.
“Each time he came back he provided information, and even food and water. He offered to have us spend the night with him and his wife, but we were reluctant to leave our car in the event someone came looking for us,” Sheila said.
After more than six hours of back and forth, Latham reluctantly told the couple, around 11 p.m., he needed to go home and get some sleep, given his early workday ahead. About half an hour after Wade last saw them, a tow truck showed up with a replacement car and their ordeal came to an end.
Sheila used words like selfless, kind, concerned, and helpful to describe Latham.
His boss, DSP Maui Superintendent Larry Pacheco said he’s not surprised. “Wade exemplifies the very best qualities of a group of workers who typically shun the spotlight. He’s an example for all of us about how we should and can treat all visitors and residents.”
“Throughout the years I’ve helped a lot of tourists change tires, unlock cars, and even provide gas. This was just one of those situations. I felt obligated to take care of our kūpuna. I just couldn’t leave them in the middle of nowhere. No cell service, no lights, no food, no drink, no nothing,” Latham said.
I told them, “Over here you still get aloha. They got the true meaning that night, for sure.”
Position descriptions for most State workers have a clause, “other duties as assigned.” For Wade, assigned or not, it’s just part of being a dedicated, caring public servant.
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KHON: The good Samaritan of Maui
HD video – Interviews with Sheila Kane and Wade Latham, Latham at work (Jan. 19, 2023)
Photographs – Wade Latham, Sheila Kane, letter