Born in California, longtime Mahaulepu, Kauai resident Adena Wallis Gillin (1907-1996) arrived at Koloa, Kaua‘i in 1926 following her graduation from Pasadena High School to became the assistant of her uncle, Dr. Alfred Herbert Waterhouse, in the operation of his experimental electrical physiotherapy equipment.
At that time, Dr. Waterhouse, much intrigued by innovative medical procedures, was the company physician for the Koloa and McBryde sugar plantations.
In an interview Adena gave in 1980, she explained: “Dr. Waterhouse had two ultraviolet machines and an alternating current machine. You’d place pads on either side of the neck or the arm where there was pain. Currents would go through it and that was supposed to reduce the pain. I don’t know if it worked. It did not catch on.”
A year after her arrival on Kauai, Adena married civil engineer Elbert Gillin and they had two children: Virginia, and Dorothy.
Most notable of her husband’s engineering achievements at Koloa Sugar Co. and Grove Farm was his design of the 2,200-foot long vehicular tunnel cut through the Ha‘upu Range.
During World War II, Adena was working with Army Intelligence as a telephone censor in the old Lihue Tip Top building, when a man calling from a nearby public phone was intercepted as saying something over the phone prohibitive to the war effort.
Military police were called, but the man had meanwhile run away down Kuhio Highway before being caught and arrested for spying.
In 1946, the Gillins built a beach house on land Mr. Gillin acquired at Mahaulepu – to this day still the only house on the entire Mahaulepu coast – and in 1950, they made it their full-time residence.
Although their Mahaulepu house was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, it has since been rebuilt.
Adena Gillin was for many years an active and productive member of the community.
She started a Girl Reserve Club and was a member of the Mokihana Club and the YWCA.
After her retirement as probation officer for the Fifth Circuit Court in Lihue, she volunteered for the Wilcox Hospital Auxiliary and the Kauai Museum.