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Yola Meyer Forbes: A Full Life


Neal Forbes (grandson), Malia Greaney (daughter), and Monica Sherlock (niece) in front of Yola’s Kalae birthplace. Photo courtesy of Malia Forbes Greaney

Community Contributed

By Malia Forbes Greaney

Recently, Molokai lost a special daughter; distinctive because she was of a generation mostly gone by and distinguished by the incredible path she chose to tread.  Each road she took brought her home again.  This island daughter was kupuna Yola Meyer Forbes, who was raised, later resided and died on her Ho`olehua homestead on Sept. 9, 2013, two months short of her 80th birthday. Born in 1933 in Kalae in a small shack her father built, which still stands near the highway, they moved a few years later what would be their family home for more than 75 years.

Yola developed a value for education while attending Holomua School, and like many from Molokai, this value took her to Kamehameha Schools.  Starting in seventh grade, she graduated with honors with the class of 1951. Her desire for education was fed by the demanding physical labor of homestead farming and pineapple fieldwork. Yola continued her formal education for almost 20 years. She began attending to Armstrong College in California at age 17, undeterred by not knowing anyone there when she left home. After obtaining her Associate of Arts degree, her education was interrupted for five years, 1953-58, when she came home to help her mother care for the family after her father suffered a heart attack.

Her dad recovered, returned to work and Yola set out again, obtaining her Bachelor’s and Master’s from University of California at Berkeley, where she met her husband, David. They had one child and a baby on the way by time they earned their PhDs from UC Davis. With a doctorate in Physiology/Endocrinology, she raised her kids and shared her education, teaching med/pre-med students at Iowa State. Taking the only job she could get as a pregnant professor in the ‘60s, she labored such that she was twice voted University Science Professor of the Year.

Yola wanted to move home, so entered and graduated in one of the first classes of University of Hawaii Law School in 1983. She firmly believed in using one’s gifts and accomplishments in service of others and for the betterment of community. During her 16-year career as an attorney on Molokai, she worked tirelessly to also provide care for her aged parents and ailing husband, ensure that her children attained higher education, and improve the quality of life for Molokai islanders. Her with efforts included Habitat for Humanity, Hikiola Cooperative and Chamber of Commerce. One of her proudest works was co-authoring the 1993 public United Church of Christ Apology to Native Hawaiians, recognizing complicity in the 1893 overthrow, to initiate a process of reconciliation and redress. This was followed by the U.S. Congressional Apology that President Clinton signed into law, and contained in current Hawaii State legislation, SR 55.

Yola found great joy in her faith, life, farm, children and grandchildren. Honoring her extraordinary accomplishments, a scholarship in her name helps Molokai High and Intermediate School graduates meet their educational goals and support the future contribution to their families and community.

On Oct. 5, Molokai will formally remember its humble servant leader and remarkable island daughter at 10 a.m. at Kalaiakamanu Hou Church.


4 Responses to “Yola Meyer Forbes: A Full Life”

  1. leo pono says:

    A high school diploma, an associates degree, a bachelor degree, a masters degree, a doctorate degree and a juris doctorate degree… I guarantee aunty yola was the ONLY person born & raised on Molokai who has achieved this high level of academic success… I can only hope & pray the youth, teens and even those in their 20’s and 30’s and even adults & parents here on Molokai realize the IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION & HARD WORK!!! Believe it or not, the “palapala” will provide you with more opportunities in life… weather its here on Molokai or not… you gotta accept the fact that we live in a western society and having a formal education is vital to your own well-being as well as those that surround you (family, community, co-workers, etc.) If you doubt yourself because you think you’re “from molokai”, DON’T DO IT!!!… because aunty yola never doubted… and she was a female minority… who prevailed & endured to the end… for the benefit for all… A HUI HOU AUNTY YOLA!!! Mahalo for everything you did for us Hawaiians and for Molokai… ALOHA!

  2. Kalikiano says:

    An extraordinary wahine, kumu, makuahine, kupuna and now ‘ohana amuakua. Aunty Yola serves to exemplify the fact that all that prevents achievement, no matter whether by local or malihini standards, is ‘attitude’ and determination. To say her example is among the best expressions of true aloha is understating the case considerably. Few people achieve such distinguised academic credentials, but for her I am sure it was all simply part of her desire to actualise her life as well as she possibly could. Throughout it all she remained a true daughter of the ‘aina, from all that has been said about her, and although I never knew her personally, I have nothing but the greatest respect for her life-spirit. Truly, and regardless of any ancient regard, women are the hope-bearers for a world of peaceful accord, harmony and wisdom! May we all profit from her accomplishments! Aloha oe, a hui hou, Aunty!

  3. Kalikiano says:

    PS: For additional inspiration to our older keiki on how to achieve the sort of greatness Aunty Yola aspired to, obtain and read a copy of DAVID BROOKS’ excellent book titled ‘THE SOCIAL ANIMAL’ (2011, Random House, ISBN 978-0-4000-6760-2). It is available at Amazon (and elsewhere) and it is a multicultural education in itself that has great value in maximising your life potential. One akamai book, garans, eh. Malama pono!

  4. Molokailady says:

    Aloha oe, Rest in Peace, Aunty Yola,

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