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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, July 24, 2000

A letter
from Jason
brings joy

THIS job has made me too cynical. That embarrassing realization came only last week, when a letter from Jason Woll ended up on my desk.

First, understand that 99 percent of my correspondence is negative -- complaining about something in the news, what government has done, the way we edit letters, and so on.

I therefore peruse my missives with a foreboding mindset, waiting for the "bad news" to drop like a 10-pound bag of sour poi.

With trepidation, I start reading the letter: "My name is Jason D. Woll and I have just completed my first year living in a small two-bedroom, one-bath house on Palapu Street in Kailua," it started.

Jason explained how he'd always dreamed of owning a "small piece of paradise in Hawaii." So, in 1999, he and his girlfriend, Rovette, gave up their small Kaneohe apartment and bought a fixer-upper on a large lot, 600 feet from the ocean, in a 50-year-old Windward neighborhood.

While renovating it, Rovette got pregnant. That sped up their plans to get married, which happened Oct. 3, 1999, in their backyard. One of their neighbors performed the ceremony, and the newlyweds rode around the block in a horse and carriage, as everybody waved their congratulations.

Then Jason described how he started clearing the brush between his house and his neighbor's. "I removed a large, overgrown tree that had infringed on the neighbor's side. They were extremely happy... and, in fact, became involved by removing old wire, metal and plant growth," he wrote.

Their original plans to install a wooden fence between the lots wouldn't work, Jason explained, because the properties weren't level. An expensive retaining wall would have to be built.

"A-HA!" I thought to myself, my negativity sensors suddenly quivering. "Here comes the problem."

Wrong. Jason described how his neighbors not only paid the construction company to erect the wall, but agreed to accept a small downpayment for his half of the structure. Oh, he could pay them back later, Jason's neighbors told him with a wave of the hand.

Then something sad happened. The man next door died, and Rovette -- a hairdresser -- volunteered to help the widow fix his hair and make-up for viewing. "Bill's funeral was an incredible event," Jason remembered. "Even though he is gone, I still feel his presence when I'm working in the garden. I know how much he enjoyed watching the vegetables grow."

Later, when the retaining wall was completed, the family-next-door told the Wolls to forget about what they owed for their half. "I wanted to call CNN and tell the world that a miracle had occurred!" Jason enthused.

HIS two-page, single-spaced letter was nearing its end, and there was STILL no "downer" in sight. What was Jason's purpose in writing, I wondered? Why was he counting his blessings when it wasn't even Thanksgiving?

Jason concluded by proudly announcing the birth of his 7-pound, 9-ounce son, Christian, and the birth of a new Kailua hair salon named after Rovette. "It seems pretty amazing when I look back at this past year -- buying a home, getting married, having a baby and starting a business," Jason summed up. "Now we really feel a part of this wonderful community."

Hey, Jason, a community isn't wonderful. It's the wonderful people who make it up. And plenty of 'em seem to be living on Palapu Street.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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