E Hoʻomaha Me Ka Maluhia, Aunty Laura

The Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) has lost one of its longtime leaders, an extraordinary navigator for Hawai’i and the world.  Known affectionately by the voyaging community as “Aunty Laura,” Laura Kalaukapu Low Lucas Thompson, daughter of Clorinda and Charles Lucas, peacefully transitioned into her next journey on the evening of August 9, 2020, surrounded by her family in her home on the land that she loved for 95 years, Niu Valley, O’ahu. “She left our sight with a smile on her face and went deep into the valley to her beloved home,” said her son Nainoa Thompson.

Laura served as a board member of PVS for decades and was a guiding conscience in decisions that would ultimately affect thousands through PVS programs and voyages.  In 2017 at the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage homecoming celebration, PVS honored her with the Navigators Award for her many years of leadership and support to the organization.

Laura grew up on her father’s “Niu Dairy,” where her deep and abiding love of nature and animals, both tame and wild, took hold and guided her through life. She would say her best friend was her horse Huapala.  She told stories of riding Huapala from Niu to Maunalua Bay, to Hanauma Bay and beyond, to Alan Davis.

Laura graduated from Punahou school where a certain classmate caught her eye in the 9th grade, Myron “Pinky” Thompson.  According to Laura, she handed Pinky a note that read, “Hi, you’re cute. I’m Laura and I’m sitting in the row next to you five seats back.”

Laura went on to Lake Erie College in Ohio while Pinky went off to war.  He survived the invasion of Normandy but later was shot in the head and lost an eye while leading a patrol.  After recovering at a hospital on the East Coast, he attended and graduated from Colby College.  Laura and Pinky married in Augusta, Maine on February 21st, 1949.  They soon began a family, starting with their daughter Lita. Then, upon their return to Hawai’i and Niu Valley, they had their sons Myron then Nainoa.

Laura was the embodiment of Hawaiian values of old.  She left the garage door open for countless children, neighbors and even strangers if they needed a place to lay their head at night, food to eat, counsel in crisis or just the comfort of presence.  And she left it open because nature was always welcomed as well, be it pets or strays.  She was also stalwart and strong, unwavering in those values and she applied them with passion to all living things, for which she carried an unconditional love.

Laura was a powerful force for good in the community but always chose to give her time quietly in the background for countless organizations and causes.  In addition to her service to PVS, she served as executive director and board member of the Hawaiian Humane Society. In her 80’s she volunteered on Midway Atoll and found such joy in being outnumbered by thousands of Albatross.

Laura’s love for all forms of life extended to the ocean as well.  She served on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council from its inception in 2001.  She advocated for outreach and education programs for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and was instrumental in securing it as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.

She also focused her attention on the dramatic deterioration of coral in Maunalua Bay, part of the ahupua’a of Niu.  She was a founding member of  the non-profit Malama Maunalua.  “This is my home, this is my aina, this is my responsibility,” she said at one meeting.

Laura also served on the boards of Alu Like, Kahala Nui, Papa Ola Lokahi, Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center, Hawai‘i Island Humane Society, American Humane Association, the Latham Foundation (Alameda, CA), The Nature Conservancy, Hui Nalu Canoe Club, Hawai‘i Nature Center, The Outdoor Circle, Planned Parenthood of Hawai‘i, Parents and Children Together, the YWCA, Palama Settlement, and the Zoo Hui.

Laura’s reach and impact were global, and she received many awards over her lifetime, both locally and nationally, because of her commitment to kindness and compassion.

From her children’s point of view, of all the infinite gifts she gave to so many, one of her greatest was that she was the foundation for her husband and her husband’s work and successes, because she not only loved him, but because she believed in him.

Laura’s greatest joy would be for every one of us to be kind – kind to each other, kind to this land and kind to all living things.  We believe what mom would want would be that every day every one of us will give a gift of kindness and compassion to earth, nature and humanity, with the belief that this will be the path to peace.

Laura is survived by 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren, all of whom she loved dearly.

Aunty Lauraʻs obituary in The Star Advertiser can be found here.

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