5/15/1942 – 10/23/2023
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Dec. 30th 2023 Celebration of Life
Jay Stark’s “eulogy”
E komo mai – Welcome everyone.
So my family knows that I sometimes go off script when I’m making public remarks – but this is one of those moments when I’m really going to try to stay on script; otherwise, it is going to be too hard.
First of all, on behalf of our entire family, we want to thank each and every one of you for being here today to honor Jeff’s memory. You are all part of Jeff’s ohana, particularly his Maui ohana who really showed up for him over these last few years, and you were such an integral part of his life over the last 50 years on Maui.
So how did we get here? The Stark side of the family treat is a journey from East to West over the last 150 years.
It started with Ibraham and Olga Stark, Ukrainian immigrants in Brooklyn in the late 1800s, then Sheldon and Margery Stark in the early 1900s in Long Island which lead to Jeff Stark and Peggy Miller in the 1960s in San Diego, CA , and then me, Jay Stark in 1967, and Sofia Stark in 1998 and Sean Stark in 2003, then Rachel and Malcolm in 2008.
Being here at this place is really very special for me – as it was just right out there on the point here at Baby’s Beach that I first arrived on Maui – almost 50 years ago. My mom (who is here) put me in a suit and tie (that’s what people did back then when flying) and put me on a plane to Oahu, then I made it to Maui. My Dad drove me out to the point here and I literally thought I had landed on an alien planet – it’s an image seared in my memory – a classic summer day, high wind and no windsurfers since the sport hadn’t been invented yet. And that was the beginning – the suit was never seen again and fifty years of adventures began.
As you might know, or you read about in my Dad’s obit, my Dad left the world a better place than he found it in his own ways. He was a writer who helped get people jobs, who helped companies and non profits with their business strategy and most importantly, he worked with numerous environmental and civic organizations here on Maui in order to make Maui a better place.
In the 1990s, Dad was a pioneer in using the Internet to promote Hawaii tourism and initiatives to protect the environment. Jeff’s “Our Environment” newspaper column and radio show were efforts to link people’s everyday actions to addressing climate change, and to introduce new climate-friendly technologies such as electric vehicles and solar power to his audience. “Our Environment” was published by The Maui News and appeared on local radio stations.
Jeff was a board member of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) for a number of years. He was a participant in the Maui Business and the Environment Conferences (BEACON) in the early 90s. He was part of the founders of the Maui Recycling Group, a non-profit that helped to launch recycling in the County of Maui; and Zero Waste Maui; as well as the Citizens Climate Lobby and other community-based organizations.
Dad’s other great passion was his family, particularly his grandchildren Sofia, Sean and Malcolm. He loved and cherished them completely, and on his frequent visits to Venice, CA he was the consummate grandpa – taking them to school and back, way too many InNOut burgers, attending plays, sporting events, etc. While he couldn’t be there all the time, he showed up when it counted, and that is what most of life is about – showing up when it matters – much like all of us here today are showing up for Jeff. And as a result, he had a close connection with all his grandkids which I know they appreciated and they will always cherish.
I wanted to give a special aloha and mahalo to Dad’s Ohana here on Maui – all of you here today and also the others that couldn’t make it. You have truly been his family for the last 50 years – Cynthia, Tom, Hana whom you will hear from in a bit and all his close friends. When my Dad became ill with Lewy Body Dementia – it hit him hard, suddenly and out of the blue – and for quite some time we didn’t really know what it was, and as we figured it out and as he deteriorated – you really showed up for him with your constant visits, check-ins and support. It was during this time that I really saw how he was loved by his community and it meant alot to our family.
I want to give a very special recognition to two very special people – first, Michelle Mafi who many of you know – she was Dad’s constant companion throughout these last few years, and his partner-in-crime from the very beginning. Michelle, you took care of him, advocated for him and your constant kindness and empathy was unmatched. Michelle – we love you and we love how you cared for Dad – you are forever part of our ohana and you are a blessing that we can never repay. Thank you.
And speaking of partners-in-crime – Dad, as you know had many friends, but someone in particular has been his constant companion – Cynthia Conrad – she is part of our family forever, Dad’s sister from another mother, friend, confidant and Auntie to Sofia, Sean, Malcolm and our entire family. Cynthia and Jeff shared a special bond that transcended mere friendship and we are forever thankful for the love, care, support and constant visits to Dad in his time of need. We truly could not have done it without you and we couldn’t have pulled off today without you, and we know that you will be forever part of our family. We love you.
And through this process of grieving and hearing from his friends near and far, we heard a lot about how Dad never had an unkind word for people, he approached people and problems with an engaging kindness and a gentle soul. As parents, we get to learn about our kids through their friends, so it has been great to learn more about Dad through his friends. He had a generous heart and spirit that is familiar to all of us.
I want to turn the program over to Cynthia, Tom and Hana who are some of Dad’s closest friends.