Eleanor Wilson Heavey, the woman in the historic picture by Ray Jerome Baker

One of the best-known photographs ever taken in Hawai‘i is of three young women in the employ of famed photographer Ray Jerome Baker (1880-1972), who took their picture in his Honolulu studio during World War II.

The woman in the center of the photograph, which was published in Baker’s coffee table book “Hawaiian Yesterdays,” is Mrs. Eleanor Wilson Heavey (1912-1978), a relative by marriage to Luana Begay Wilson.

Luana was born on Kaua‘i, raised at Puhi Camp, and graduated from Kauai High School, Class of 1967, the same class as her good friend, my wife Ginger Beralas Soboleski.

At the time the picture was taken, Mrs. Heavey and her two co-workers were employed by Baker to have their photographs taken with soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen stationed in Hawai‘i, many of whom would soon be off to war in the Pacific.

For those among them who would perish in the war, it would likely be the last picture they would ever take.

Baker, by the way, photographed countless individuals and scenes throughout the Hawaiian Islands and practically every street and building in Honolulu, his residence for 64 years, from 1908 until 1972.

His last significant work occurred in 1960, when he revisited the neighbor islands to take pictures of places he’d first photographed during trips there in the early 1900s.

Eleanor Wilson Heavey, the woman in the picture, was of Hawaiian-English-Chinese ancestry, and was born in Honolulu.

Her mother, Namahana Mahuka Wilson, came from Kohala on Hawai‘i Island, and her English-Chinese father, Harry Wilson Sr., a sailor who spoke English with a pronounced Australian accent, was born in New South Wales, Australia.

Eleanor Heavey graduated from McKinley High School, was a composer and performer of Hawaiian music, loved to surf, and was deeply appreciative of her Hawaiian heritage.

Besides working for Ray Jerome Baker during World War II, she also worked as an aviation mechanic at Ford Island during the war and as a recreation specialist for the City &County of Honolulu.

Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

  1. Jami Steele November 15, 2020 4:59 am Reply

    So interesting and inspiring for women. Thank you for the background of this beautiful lady’s life. Good article and would like to see more

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