Marks enlightened many about Kalaupapa


POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2008





        The advocate for leprosy patients who were exiled to the Molokai peninsula has died.

  Deprived of his freedom by disease and his fellow humans, Richard Marks did not turn toward bitterness. Instead, he channeled his energy and abilities toward standing up for Hansen's disease patients who, like him, had been banished to Kalaupapa. Among them were his father, a brother and sister, his grandmother, an aunt and an uncle.

Marks, who died Tuesday at age 79, is largely credited with helping to bring about the abolition of a century-long quarantine policy that kept more than 8,000 people confined at Kalaupapa, pressing the federal government to create a National Historic Park there and for prompting an apology by the Legislature this year.

His advocacy would take him around the world and to realms of power like the Vatican. There, in 1983, he joined the late Hawaii author Ozzie Bushnell and Franciscan Sister Mary Laurence Hanley in a private audience with Pope John Paul II to speak on behalf of sainthood for Mother Marianne Cope, who provided spiritual and physical support to Kalaupapa's patients.

In 1996 he received the international Damien-Dutton Award, which had previously gone to such notable figures as Mother Teresa and President John F. Kennedy.

The prestigious award acknowledged what was perhaps Marks' most influential undertaking - that of telling from day to day for nearly 40 years the narrative of his life and the history of Kalaupapa. As the Star-Bulletin's Mary Adamski reported, thousands of visitors heard the stories, the pithy criticisms of government agencies and colorful recollections as he drove his Damien Tours bus around the peninsula.

Marks' efforts to shed light on a once-hidden community will be his legacy.