Last days devoted to Hawaiian archaeology
Helen Leidemann / 1954-2006
ARCHAEOLOGIST Helen Higman Leidemann's mission in the last months of her life was to complete reports on historical Hawaiian sites investigated along the path of the H-3 freeway.
The project went beyond her own research at the Windward end of the trans-Koolau highway. She was writing from the notes and site maps of other archaeologists and anthropologists who worked on the project more than a dozen years ago.
"It was very hard work, because all the other people who worked on it left the museum," said Yosihiko Sinoto, senior anthropologist at the Bishop Museum. Leidemann had completed eight reports, with one left unfinished, when she died April 28 at her home. She was 52.
"She believed it was important that it be published, that the information gathered should be put into the public's hands," said her husband, Mike Leidemann.
"I found Helen's work to be inspirational. Her professionalism was extraordinary," said Allen Alison, museum vice president for science. "She attacked every project with the same level of dedication and attention to detail. Some of the reports she finalized came back from the state Historical Preservation Division with no changes and with laudatory comments."
Helen Leidemann joined the Bishop Museum staff in 1982 after doing volunteer work there for two years. She came to Hawaii in 1980 as an East-West Center grantee on a two-year study program.
Sinoto recalled her as a person who "did her work quietly and meticulously." She took three weeks each year to join Sinoto in excavation of early Polynesian sites on Huahine in French Polynesia.
Carla Kishinami said her friend had a lighter side. "I loved her humorous side, her storytelling. She loved adventures, travel, hiking. A good part of the fun was telling stories about it, with such extravagant exaggeration, such embellishments. When you think about Helen, you remember times when you were laughing with her."
Her husband said she loved to travel, "gaining an understanding of the world that you get from seeing the place firsthand. I'm glad we did it when we did."
Helen Leidemann was born in Baltimore. She graduated from Northwestern University and earned a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Guam.
Besides her husband, she is survived by parents Henry and Betty Higman; brothers Harry and Steven Higman, and sister Susan Larsen.
A celebration of her life will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bishop Museum courtyard. Friends may call after 6 p.m.