‘A very spunky lady’

KAPAA — Leonora Amaral Schies has been asking for pancit for the past several days.

Monday, Schies got her wish when her family, including son Charles Amaral and daughter Eleanor Kennedy, both traveling from California, converged at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital to celebrate Schies’ 100th birthday.

“We have pancit,” said Josie Pablo, the Mahelona Hospital recreation director, of the Filipino noodle cuisine. “All week, you asked for it, today we have pancit and birthday cake.”

Schies was born on May 4, 1915, in Koloa.

Following her birth, her family, including parents Pedro Guzman and Eulalia Rivera, moved to Lahaina, Maui where Schies attended Lahainaluna Grammar School and developed a love of reading, writing, and talking about the huge banyan tree on the school grounds.

When she was 11 years old, her father passed away and the family moved back to Kauai where Schies and her three brothers and four sisters had to go to work. This was especially sad for Schies, who could not return to school.

At 14 years old, Schies married John Amaral on Oct. 11, 1929. The couple were blessed with five children: Gilbert, Charles, Dorothy, Robert and Eleanor, several of whom came from the Mainland to celebrate Schies’ century of life.

“I’m her great-grandchild,” said Candace Laamea. “We have five generations of family here today.”

Schies has 16 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren, and eight great-great-grandchildren.

During World War II, Schies worked in the laundry at the Mana Military Base.

The passing of Amaral in 1959 send Schies back into the world where she found a job as a housekeeper at the Kauai Inn, eventually meeting Cleo Schies, whom she married in 1963. She also worked at The Garden Island newspaper as a book binder.

Eleanor said her mother worked very hard throughout her life.

“The hard work is the secret to her long life,” said Josie Pablo, the Mahelona hospital recreation director. “When we reach milestone birthdays, we always ask residents the secret to their long life. She said it’s hard work.”

During spare moments, Schies developed a love for sewing. She bought a Singer sewing machine and learned to sew, making clothes for the entire family. She also did the cooking, washing, and caring for the animals whenever her husband worked the night shift.

Pablo said Schies also remembers her mom boiling the laundry out in the yard and doing the wash on a scrub board and hanging all of the clothes on the line to dry.

Another love was baking where she baked bread in the family’s outdoor oven, making sure that each time she baked she had five small loaves — one for each of her five children.

Following Schies’ passing, Leonora lived alone until 2007 when she moved in to Rabaino’s Care Home, where she was under the care of Lalaine Rabaino.

Rabaino, of the Mahelona Hospital recreation staff, continues to care to Schies following her admittance to Mahelona hospital in 2010.

“Pancit is symbolic of long life,” Rabaino said, offering Schies the first bite at the birthday gathering. “Because of that, they serve pancit at all birthday celebrations, or where people wish success.”

The pancit and birthday cake inspired Schies to take the microphone from Ernest Punzal of the Kapaa Senior Ukulele Band to do a rendering of Maligayang Pagdating, a Filipino welcoming song with Medina Cabaloteja, a Mahelona hospital nurse.

“Grandma continues to be as active as possible,” Pablo said. “She is out of bed daily and continues to attend the activities. Grandma is a very spunky lady and keeps the staff on their toes, being very observant of things around her and making comments.”

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