CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Juanita Chun spread out a sampling of her collection of the American Lung Association's Christmas Seals in the storage area of her Kaneohe home on Wednesday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Stash of Christmas Seals collects smiles for years
Collector of Christmas stamps will be recognized at a Lung Association fundraiser
Juanita Chun fell in love with the Christmas Seal when she was 8.
"When I first saw it, I thought it was very outstanding," said the 73-year-old Kaneohe resident. "I told my father, 'Can I have stamps when you're finished using them?' so he gave it to me.
"From that time on, he would give me stamps because I thought they were the prettiest things in the world."
Chun still has that 1941 stamp, and it is her favorite. "Every time I look at it, it's so pretty. I can't believe it's in its original condition."
She missed 1942-43, when her father served in the Army, but she has a continuous collection from 1944 and will be honored by the American Lung Association of Hawaii at its gala fundraiser Dec. 7.
Chun said her family always took the Star-Bulletin, "and my father let me have the honor of paying the newspaper boy. At that time it was 90 cents (per month). He made me read the paper when I was very young and tell him what I read. The newspaper was my education, too, beside going to school."
So when she saw a Star-Bulletin story Oct. 15 about the American Lung Association of Hawaii looking for the isle resident with the oldest collection of Christmas Seals, she called the number listed.
Bert Kobayashi, lung association director of advocacy and partnerships, said Chun's collection spanning 63 years with no break is "a most remarkable achievement."
The runner-up is a Kapahulu woman who worked at Leahi Hospital and has a 42-year collection starting in the 1950s when the hospital had hundreds of TB patients, he said.
The ALAH collection is the most extensive, Kobayashi said. It features the first Christmas Seal, from 1907. After some interruptions the organization began a continuous collection when it was founded in 1929.
Chun graduated from St. Andrew's Priory in 1951. She worked as a clerk-typist for various private firms and then for five state departments starting Aug. 17, 1959, until June 1991. Her husband, Donald H.F. Chun, retired from Hawaiian Electric Co. in 1991 after 36 years.
Growing up, she said, she always received clothes for Christmas. "So the Christmas seals were considered my 'Mona Lisa.'"
At first she would put them on Christmas card envelopes, she said. Then in 1956 she began getting a whole sheet of stamps and decided to keep them. "I figured in future years the collection would look nice." She began keeping two full sheets starting in 1975.
"When I first started, I thought they were so pretty, and every year I would wait for it (the sheet of stamps) and just lay it on the table and look at it."
She said her stamps are in very good condition because she never put them into albums, manila folders or picture frames.
She left them in their original waxy paper and kept them in a box, she said. "They are so well preserved and so nice."
She does not know exactly how many Seals she has, noting some sheets have labels as well as stamps. "It's hard to count how many stamps I have, but yikes!"
Neither her son, Donald M. Chun of Mililani, who works at HECO, nor her daughter, Donna M. Chun, who lives with her parents and works at City Hall, are Christmas Seal collectors.
But Juanita Chun is saving the whole sheets to be passed on from generation to generation.
Proceeds of Christmas Seals in Hawaii are used to teach schoolchildren about the dangers of smoking, conduct asthma sports camps, support research at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and help patients of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Juanita Chun holds up an American Lung Association sheet of 1941 Christmas seals with which she started her collection at age 8. Chun just won an American Lung Association contest for the isles' most extensive consecutive collection of Christmas Seals. CLICK FOR LARGE
Lung Association gala set for Dec. 7
The American Lung Association of Hawaii will celebrate major achievements in asthma, tobacco control and clean air at its annual Christmas Seals Gala fundraiser Dec. 7 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The event will begin with cocktails and a silent auction at 6 p.m. Dinner will be at 7:30 p.m.
Proceeds will support the association's efforts to prevent lung disease and promote lung health through research, education and advocacy.
The ALAH will use the fundraiser to recognize its "Success Partners" -- Grace Pacific Corp., Hawaii Community Foundation (Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund and Leahi Fund), the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Kapiolani Community College Respiratory Care Program and Sassy & G magazine.
Sponsorship levels for the dinner are $20,000 for a "platinum" table, $10,000 for a "gold" table, $5,000 for a "silver" table, $3,000 for a 'bronze" table and $1,750 for a table for 10 or individual seats at $175.
Tax-deductible tickets are available by calling ALAH at 537-5966.