A ‘green’ tradition moves to Kilauea

KILAUEA — “This was the only holiday he celebrated,” said Donna Schulze of Mike McDonnell. “He didn’t even put up a Christmas tree.”

But a day before St. Patrick’s Day in 2006, McDonnell passed away.

“He always had a party on St. Patrick’s Day,” Schulze said of the former Princeville resident who was the best friend of George, her husband. “We were one of the few people who went for the 29 years he had the party at his home in Princeville.”

Schulze said a lot of people would come and the event usually ended up with about 50 or 60 people, dressed in green and enjoying McDonnell’s hospitality.

On Wedneday, with St. Patrick’s Day three days away, the Schulzes were busy unpacking items, stringing up streamers, and dusting off items for their gazebo.

On McDonnell’s passing, the Schulzes were the recipients of his entire collection of St. Patrick’s Day decorations and paraphernalia.

“We have a lighted necktie,” George said, while tweaking a string of paper leprechauns. “There’s also a lighted four-leafed clover that we’ll light up once the extension cord is in place.”

Among the collection that Donna tried to give away to people to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is a four-foot tall stuffed leprechaun that silently watched the pair from the comfort of a lawn chair.

“We’ll have him out when we’re home,” Donna said. “The rest of the time, he’ll be in the house where he has a spot in the living room.”

Leading to the Schulze’s driveway, George set out a path marked by cardboard clovers — all green, of course — and set off the path with an Irish-themed wind sock.

“There were all kinds of things in the boxes,” Donna said. “This year, we’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a tribute to Mike since this was the only holiday he celebrated.”

Among the collection of St. Patrick’s Day items, Donna pointed out a frame containing hand-painted invitations to McDonnell’s parties.

“There’s 29 of them. Each one is different and they were all hand-painted by one of his friends, Gracie Burke, who used to help coordinate the golf tournaments at Princeville,” Donna said.

But when her family needed her, she moved back to the Mainland, but always came back for the parties, Donna said.

McDonnell, who retired as a colonel following 30 years of service in the United States Air Force, followed the Schulzes as they moved to Kaua‘i.

He started the annual tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day parties back in 1976, and through the years, Donna said the parties grew to include live music, an Irish dinner and an Irish sing-a-long.

“The only thing he was missing was an Irish bagpipe,” Donna said. “Not a Scottish bagpipe — an Irish one.”

Donna said at the annual party, she made an exception and donned a green dress.

When they arrived, she said, McDonnell, who knew they weren’t alcohol drinkers, always offered her a Diet Pepsi, and George, a root beer.

“You know, I don’t like green. I like lavendar, but once a year, I’ll wear the green dress,” she said.

This year, a year following McDonnell’s passing, Donna said they’ll put out the decorations for one more time to honor his memory.

“I’ll wear the green dress, again,” Donna said. “One more time.”

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