I’m sorry for being so long in writing a blog. You must have wondered what on earth happened to me since we returned from Europe. However, if you read the obituaries in the Star-Advertiser this week, you already know. I’m shocked to report that, on September 21, my mother passed away, and on Tuesday, September 24, my brother passed away.
Mother had been ill for a month or so and her death was terribly sad, but not totally unexpected. My brother’s death, however, was a complete shock. We had brunch with Robbie and his wife, Ginger, on Sunday, September 22, to talk about Mother’s Celebration of Life. Robbie seemed in perfect health. On Monday he went surfing, his favorite thing to do. Sometime during Monday night or early Tuesday morning, Robbie had either a massive heart attack or an aortic aneurysm. It was horrific for Ginger, who found him curled up on their living room floor.
Now we are busy planning Celebrations of Life for Mother and Robbie. For those who have asked, here are the pertinent details:
Jacky Rath’s Celebration of Life
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Solarium, Arcadia Retirement Residence, 1434 Punahou Street
Robbie’s Rath’s Celebration of Life
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The Elk’s – Honolulu Lodge, 2933 Kalakaua Avenue
The family asks that donations in behalf of both Jacky and Robbie be made to Palama Settlement.
My mother was an extremely modest, quiet, self-effacing person. She always put her husband, Bobby, and her kids, before her. Therefore few people knew much about her. Here’s the mini bio I wrote about Mother for the program for her Celebration of Life:
Jacqueline Jacobs Rath
Jacky Rath was an “Army brat,” the daughter of Colonel James Paul Jacobs and Helen Lee. She was born on an Army base in California and grew up all over the country. By age 15, she had already finished high school. Her father, recognizing her formidable intellect, arranged for her to skip three grades in school so she would not be in college at the same time as her younger sister, Carol. During her 16th summer she spent three months traveling through Europe with her father. The travel bug stayed with her all her life.
Jacky Jacobs met Bobby Rath at a beach party in Honolulu. Little did the 21-year-old working man know that the beautiful statuesque brunette was only 15 years old. The first time Bobby was to meet Jacky’s parents he asked Jacky what her favorite flowers were. Her answer: daisies. He said he couldn’t just buy her daisies – they were 10 cents a bunch – but she insisted they were her favorite. So, not to seem “cheap,” Bobby bought Jacky 12 dozen bunches of daisies. Jacky’s mother dubbed Bobby “the little barefoot boy who wouldn’t go away.”
After a year at the University of Hawaii Manoa, Jacky attended, and graduated from, Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. Bobby had never been to the Mainland before, but he and his brother drove across the country to visit the coed. In spite of three years apart, they were married in Honolulu immediately upon her return.
Jacky was the ideal corporate wife. Bobby was transferred up and down the West Coast and to Hong Kong and she was left to handle all the details of moving: selling the house, packing up the belongings and convincing the kids they would indeed find new friends in the new locale.
Always the taste maker, Jacky became the consummate hostess, having memorable parties large and small for business colleagues and friends. Her favorite place to entertain was the beach house on the North Shore. And she did everything with so much individuality and style!
A strikingly beautiful woman, Jacky exhibited elegance and grace from a very early age. While at Goucher College, Life magazine sent a roving photographer around to several East Coast colleges to identify fall fashion trends. Jacky was featured in the magazine wearing a Scottish kilt she had bought during her European trip with her father.
After she thought her three kids were old enough, Jacky went to work in Cooke Library at Punahou School. She later started the Hawaiian Room and became an expert in Polynesian books. She also became a friend and confidant to many Punahou students. One student who remembers her fondly is Herman Pi’ikea Clark, now a professor at Tokorau Institute of Indigenous Innovation in New Zealand. In his PhD thesis, Pi’ikea wrote: “Under the guidance of the Hawaiian Collection Librarian, Mrs. Jacky Rath, I read books about the history of my homeland which allowed me to contextualize my genealogy as a Kanaka….I will forever be grateful to Mrs. Rath for this introduction and the academic doorway to my ancestors that she opened for me.”
Last June Pi’ikea visited Jacky and read her excerpts from his thesis with tears running down his cheeks. She meant so much to him, as she did to so many Punahou students.
Jacky was as dedicated to Palama Settlement as Bobby, who was born and raised there. In the 1940s and 1950s, she had her own girls’ club, the Flashy Froshes. She taught them etiquette, hygiene, grooming, social skills and they had campouts in the backyard of the Raths’ Portlock Road home.
During the 1980s – 1990s, Jacky worked tirelessly on the Palama Settlement Archives. She took stacks of boxes of miscellany and turned it into an archive that is the envy of every other not for profit in Hawaii. Jacky was so modest and self-effacing that she would not allow Palama to name the archives after her.
If one were to sum up Jacky Rath in a single word, it would be: a lady. Quiet and reserved, gracious and kind, she shared a rare generosity of spirit, compassion and understanding with everyone in her life. Jacky’s luminous smile shone brightly on the world right up until the moment of her passing. She will always remain a shining beacon in the lives of everyone she touched.
In case you didn’t see this in the newspaper today, here is the obit I wrote for Robbie, my beloved brother who always protected me.
Robbie Rath (Robert H. Rath II) was a keiki o ke kai, who loved the ocean and made it his playground as well as his life’s work.
Robbie was born and raised in Honolulu. He attended Punahou School and Menlo College, later graduating from University of Hawaii at Manoa with a degree in geography.
From the age of 15, when his family built a beach home on the North Shore, Robbie’s passion was surfing. His favorite surf spots were Ala Moana Bowls, Chun’s and Laniakea. His surf name was “Old Man.” His wife, Ginger Waters, describes him as a “Soul surfer. He would say he wasn’t religious but the closest thing to religion for him was surfing. He said you can’t deny there is a God when you’re at one with a wave, with the mountains as your back drop.” Robbie went surfing on the last day of his life.
Robbie was a decorated Vietnam War veteran with the 9th infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He was in a long range reconnaissance team in the communications division. He was an advisor to and fought proudly with the Queen’s Cobra Unit of Thai soldiers. He said he admired and respected them on and off the battlefield. Robbie received a Bronze Star for acts of heroism in a combat zone and a Purple Heart for being wounded in action. He also received a commendation from the Queen of Thailand.
Pacific Resources Inc. hired Robbie to oversee operations. He traveled to Tonga, Fiji and Samoa for PRI to set up operations there. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he saw the future – that there would be a need for a team of experts to respond to oil spills. He was a founder of Hawaii’s Clean Islands Council, a consortium supported by the oil companies that partners with the national Marine Oil Spill Response Corporation and the Coast Guard.
While working for Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP), Robbie gained international respect for his handling of the Iron Baron oil spill on Hebe Reef off Northern Tasmania. His environmental work was so lauded that the Australian government and BHP held a dinner in his honor, bringing both Robbie and his wife, Ginger Waters, to Melbourne to receive an award.
Robbie became a consultant and formed his own team to provide oil spill response and mine safety training. His company was called RathResponse and he worked with experts from all over the world in such far flung countries as Colombia, England, Peru, Chile and Australia.
Robbie and Ginger first fell in love as teens in 1963. They met again by happenstance 26 years later, in 1989, and married in 1991.
Robbie is survived by his wife Ginger, his sisters Paula Rath and Roberta Cullen of Honolulu, three children: Tiare Rath of New York City, Heather Rath of Hilton Head, S.C. and Rob Rath of Hong Kong; and two grandsons: Gray Dimaria and Davis Hama.
A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday, October 3, at 4 p.m. at the Elks – Honolulu Lodge No. 616, 2933 Kalakaua Ave. The family requests that donations be made to Palama Settlement, 810 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96817.
– Paula Rath