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WAFF Spirit awardees celebrated, Saturday

WAIMEA — Crystal Valenciano Rowe, Esther Visitacion Estes, Jonelle Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin, and Eric Nordmeier are alumni of Waimea High School who will be celebrated with the Waimea Alumni and Friends Foundation Spirit Award during a WAFF Hawaiian style dinner, Saturday at the Waimea High School cafeteria.

The four awardees, recognized for their accomplishments and contribution to the community, will be joined by golfers from the annual WAFF Golf Tournament that will contest, Saturday at the Puakea Golf Course.

Dinner service starts at 6 p.m. followed by the evening’s program that includes the WAFF Spirit Award recognition and the winners of the WAFF Golf Tournament.

Eric Nordmeier

Currently the president of the West Kauai Business and Professional Association, Eric is one of five children who grew up in Hanapepe Heights, attending Ele‘ele Elementary School ahead of Waimea High School. He participated in Pop Warner football and Junior Varsity basketball as a Menehune before graduating and continuing to the Air Force community college, Park University in Montana, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He earned a Masters in Public Administration from Troy State University in Alabama — all while on active duty with the Air Force.

Returning to Kauai, Eric joined the West Kauai Lions Club in 1999 and has served in several organizational capacities, including club officer and committee chair, rising to become the Lions International District Governor for the state of Hawaii in 2011. As a Lion and PDG, Eric is involved in the annual school vision and hearing screenings, the Salvation Army Christmas season, the Waimea High School Leo Club advisor, the Kekaha Easter Egg hunt, the Burns Field Cleanup, the Lydgate Park Cleanup, and other Lions Club service projects.

Eric became a member of the West Kauai Business and Professional Association where he serves as president, today. The WEBPA host a number of projects on the Westside that benefits communities throughout the island, the state, country, and globally, including the Waimea Town Christmas Tree Lighting, and the Waimea Town Celebration.

Eric volunteers and serves in many other capacities that include the County of Kauai Elections, Kauai Chamber of Commerce, Senior Medicare Patrol Team Member Volunteer, Grove Farm Museum Docent Volunteer, Kauai Planning and Action Alliance Board Member, and a volunteer for the Kauai Historical Society. He also assisted with the restoration of the Kauai Veterans Museum. Eric Nordmeier has given back to his community in many ways and continues to be a stalwart and dedicated volunteer.

Kumu Hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin

Following graduation from Waimea High School in 1991, and from the University of Hawaii-Hilo in 1995, Jonelle Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin has worked toward establishing her own halau, Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala, with a personal mission of instilling in her students the many facets of hula that will allow them to perpetuate this most sacred art at a high level of excellence.

Kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin established the halau in 1996 in Kalaheo following a life-long journey that started at age three with Kumu Hula Ku‘ulei Punua. The learning journey continued with keiki hula training with Aunty Lovey Apana and Aunty Beverly Muraoka.

Following graduation from Waimea High School, the hula training continued at the University of Hawaii-Hilo where she advanced her hula training with Kumu Hula Rae Fonseca until she returned to Kauai to care for her mother. A year later, with the blessings of Kumu Rae Fonseca, Leina‘ala opened the doors to her halau as its Kumu Hula.

Her halau that has grown to include some 200 students on Kauai and hula ‘ohana in Japan and Mexico, takes great pride in being a vital part of their Kauai community by sharing their love for all who are Hawaiian and giving back through community service. Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leina’ala participates annually in the Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula competition as well as being invited to participate in the prestigious Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island.

Kumu Leina’ala also has a deep passion for serving her community and currently serves as a commissioner on the Kauai Police Commission. In 2014, the YWCA honored Leina’ala with their prestigious Kauai Woman of the Year Award.

Leinaala is a true blue alumnus and holds great pride in calling herself a Waimea Menehune. While attending WHS, she served as student body Vice President and was active in numerous clubs as well as a Waimea High School Cheerleader.

Esther Visitacion Estes

Esther Visitacion Estes’ early stomping grounds were on the Westside in Ele‘ele and Hanapepe where she was active at both the Ele‘ele Elementary School, and Waimea High School.

Following her graduation as a Menehune, Estes attaomed a Secretarial Science degree from the Canon Business College on Oahu and worked for 35 years in federal civil serve that included secretarial, paralegal, and telecommunications work.

Now back on Kauai, Estes serves as secretary for the West Kauai Business and Professional Association where she has been instrumental in ensuring communications are delivered to all stakeholders, and follow through is consistent. In December 2018, Estes volunteered to coordinate the West Kauai Lighting and the Christmas Parade events as its chair. She also coordinates the food booths for WKBPA.

Recently retired, Esther has volunteered and participated for many PMRF work-related activities in the community. She’s been a volunteer with Project Grad since 2002 and served as chair for this committee from 2010-2016. With more time now to volunteer, Esther recently helped our alumni’s First Annual Pancake Breakfast in 2018 and participated in the first Reality Fair at Waimea High School in May, 2019.

Dubbed the “Energizer Bunny Rabbit,” Esther’s high energy and commitment to any task exemplifies the spirit of a Waimea High School Alumnus. Esther is a sparkplug in organizing reunions, trips, cruises, and other activities for her class mates. Her service and volunteerism in our community continue to shine brightly.

Crystal Valenciano Rowe

Crystal Valenciano Rowe is another young person who grew up in the arid red dirt of the Westside, attending Ele‘ele Elementary School before graduating from Waimea High School in 1973. During her tenure as a Menehune, Rowe served as class president for four years while participating in numerous school clubs, including the National Honor Society, and being a member of the Menehune Cheer Squad.

After graduating from Waimea High School, Rowe earned a BA in Special Education on the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in 1977. She continued on to earn a Masters of Education in Curriculum Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2013.

Crystal’s educational career started at Kalaheo Elementary School, transferring to the Kapaa Middle School, and is presently the SPED Transition Teacher/Work Study Supervisor at Kapaa High School.

Working closely with fellow teachers, Crystal provides lifeskills and employment opportunities for her students while transitioning them to adult life. She also serves on the Project Graduation team at Kapaa High School.

Her professional activities include Alpha Delta Kappa since 1982 and Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Crystal resides in Wailua Homesteads with her husband Robert Rowe.

Her interests and hobbies include travelfing, movies, trivia games, and dancing.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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