Sara Jones Returns to Waioli
Hawaii and Pacific Islands Division
It had been 65 years since Brigadier Sara Jones sailed away from the Hawaiian Islands with her beloved late husband, Jack. Daughter Catherine Kennedy-Jones made all the arrangements, including the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, as they arrived to celebrate Sara’s 91st birthday.
The celebration began with a tour of Salvation Army facilities, over land she had known as a young woman. Though expressing disappointment at the replacement of old buildings she held so vividly in her memory, she understood the need for change. With twinkling eyes, Sara sat beside her genial driver, Bob Stillwell, as they shared remembrances, as he too had served as an officer on these grounds 30 years ago.
The day’s highlight was luncheon at the Waioli Tea Room, hosted by her friend, Bette Stillwell. Awe showed on her face as she saw the changes in the huge monkeypod trees, coconut palms and all forms of tropical foliage that 65 years had brought.
An eagerly-awaited birthday gift was a copy of the manuscript of Bette’s new book, “Back to Waioli,” in which a vision of Sara’s return journey is told in an early chapter.
After a greeting by Divisional Commander Major Don Mowery, the special guests were seated at a lanai table and served personally by new managers Gary and Rebecca Walker. Sara recalled that even then, tour drivers brought people by the busload to enjoy a unique experience, take lots of pictures, and return home with gift shop souvenirs.
As Tea Room manager from 1978, Bette became aware of the need for the telling of its history, why it was built, and the lives it had affected: a piece that could be distributed or sold in the gift shop to the many people wishing to know the story.
Brigadier Jones was the first to respond to Bette’s request for memories from people who had been associated with Waioli. Personalities of the contributors can be seen through the pages that tell of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, love and devotion.
Before returning to Waikiki, Sara gave a generous check to help defray the cost of a bronze marker to be affixed in a prominent location at the Tea Room showing its registry as a Historic Site elected in 1991 by the Hawaii State Office for Historic Preservation.