Debbie Collins, left, graduated in the Honolulu Police Department's 133rd student officer training class on May 31, 2000, joining her mother, Sgt. Ardi Maioho, on the force.

Parents’ dedication
to public service
inspires daughters

Debbie Collins has a firefighter
father and police-officer mother

By Nelson Daranciang

Debbie Collins remembers that when she was little, her mother often took her and her younger sister to have meals with their father at the Manoa Fire Station, where he was the captain.

Her father occasionally took Debbie and her sister Gina to have meals with their mother in Chinatown, where she was a patrol officer in the Honolulu Police Department.

Collins said she always looked up to her parents. She said their dedication to their jobs and public service influenced her decision to follow in her mother's footsteps to become half of the HPD's first mother-daughter team two years ago.

"My parents are really strong role models," she said.

Her sister teaches Hawaiian language to preschool children at Punana Leo O Kawaiaha'o.

"She wanted to be an attorney to help others in the Hawaiian community," said Ardi Maioho, Debbie and Gina's mother.

Gina instead plans to go back to school to get her graduate degree in Hawaiian studies so she can be an influence in the Hawaiian community through teaching, Maioho said.

Maioho is a patrol sergeant at the Kahuku Substation. Debbie is a patrol officer in Leeward Oahu on temporary assignment with the department's audio-visual section at the training academy. Her father, Eugene Watanabe, who retired from the Honolulu Fire Department in 1995, spends his days baby-sitting Debbie's two children. All of them, including Gina, live together in the family's home in Waipahu.

Even though she often saw her parents on the job, Collins said they never talked about their work.

"You try not to bring your job home," Maioho said.

Collins said she now understands why.

"How can you tell a child you saw a dead body today?" she said.

Since becoming a police officer, Collins said she has gotten closer to her mother and father.

"I can bond with my parents because we can share stories they didn't before," she said.

When Debbie and her sister were growing up, their mother worked eight-hour shifts five days a week. Their father worked 24-hour shifts. That meant mother and father were often on duty at the same time.

When he could not find a baby-sitter, Watanabe said he took his daughters to work with him at the fire station.

"They were independent," he said. "They would go to the Manoa Park swimming pool."

Their careers also kept the parents away from their children on holidays.

Maioho was making one last round through Kahuku before ending her shift on Mother's Day 1999 when a rock slide fell on dozens of people at Sacred Falls, killing six. She remained on duty another seven hours.

"Everybody was celebrating, waiting for me to come home. I felt bad," she said.

Maioho was not able to call her family right away. By the time she did call, her family had already heard about the tragedy and realized she was needed on the job.

"You kinda, like, forget about yourself and your family," she said. "Your family suffers so they have to be understanding."

Collins said: "It's not the holidays that are important; it's every day. Just because they missed Christmas or Thanksgiving doesn't mean they don't mean anything to them. They did the things that took care of the family."

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