Kilauea Lighthouse volunteer

92 and going strong

by Pam Woolway – The Garden Island

In April the Kilauea Lighthouse celebrated its 95th birthday with volunteer Lilly Daily, who is just three years younger.

Daily, 92, was among the first volunteer groups trained more than 20 years ago and still arrives weekly for her shift at the wildlife refuge.

“Every Thursday of my life I’ll be there,” said the 58-year Hawai‘i resident.

Daily’s home on Anini boasts even more history then this long-time Kaua‘i kupuna.

“Our house used to be part of Mahelona Hospital,” she said. In the early ’50s, her husband had heard the hospital was taking bids on the building. He returned home from work one day to report the purchase.

She recalls his sheepish delivery of the news. “Well, we got it.’” He said to his wife.

Daily confessed she didn’t know why he looked so down. Then he told her he was the only bidder. Moving the old hospital building off the hill on Kealia was easy back then, recalls Daily.

“There was no traffic,” she said.

There were only two other houses on the stretch of beach. And this was long before the road was paved. In fact, Daily said county workers paved the road specifically for a party she and her husband were throwing at their house.

“Everything was easier back then,” she said. “All you had to do was ask.”

At 92, Daily continues to attend the opera season on O‘ahu, volunteer for a handful of organizations and travel abroad. She sums up her youthful countenance in four simple words: “Just keep on moving.”

The self-described professional volunteer and world traveler has given her services freely all over Hawai‘i — from Iolani Palace to Princeville Library and since 1986 at the Kilauea Lighthouse.

Christmas letters and postcards fill her volunteer file with postmarks from China, Bhutan, Germany and New Zealand. A postcard sent from Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, reads, “This is where the Hokule‘a came in when we went to meet and greet her 10 years ago.”

Daily’s last trip abroad was in October 2007 to Australia. She admits to not being sure she wants to travel again soon.

“Look where I live,” she said waving her hand toward the horizon. “I think I’ll stay here.”

For 20 years this adventurous spirit traveled with Friendship Force exchange, an international nonprofit organization founded in 1977 under the Jimmy Carter Administration. Rather than visit countries as tourists, Friendship Force seeks a loftier experience of uniting people from different countries.

“We’d stay in homes,” Daily said.

The home-stay exchanges offer insight on culture, cuisine and political views of a population. But the best part was all the friendships made. Daily made hundreds of friends in the name of world peace.

“Our motto is ‘a world of friends is a world of peace,’” she said.

Many of her travels were with friends and relatives, but from the sounds of her holiday letters to the staff at the lighthouse she regularly began with friends and would merge a trip into a Friendship Force gathering.

Greece, Republic of Slovakia, Budapest, Finland, Midway Atoll, Zimbabwe, even Antarctica — her letters read like a pirate’s diary of adventure on the high seas.

She sensed early in life she had a wandering soul.

“When I was little and everyone else was in bed,” she confided. “I’d look out at the stars and imagine I was up there.”

•Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or


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