Finally we both got to thank two of our newest ohana in person for their generous hearts and for literally bringing Dick back to life in January. Honolulu firefighter Salesi Maumau and his wife Eryn, both native Northern Californians, came to visit in Sacramento this past week, and we—lucky people that we are—got to sit with them over dinner and talk story, as they say in Hawaii.
They called us ohana, too, which brought tears to our eyes, that lovely Hawaiian word that means “family,” because Dick got to meet Salesi and Eryn at the Celebration of Life at the Honolulu Airport Feb. 15 (you can read about that here) and embrace them as loved ones for the first time. Aren’t they marvelous? Not only beautiful looking people, but lovely humans on the inside, too.
We learned more about Salesi and Eryn over dinner:
• That they met at Sac State as business administration students. Eryn grew up with her family in Yuba City, and Salesi (who has Hawaiian roots) grew up with his family in Elk Grove.
• That they’re both college athletes: Salesi playing football, first at Franklin High School in Elk Grove, then at Sac City (go, Panthers!) and at Sac State (go, Hornets!). Eryn played volleyball at Sac State.
• Both of them were named to the Big Sky Conference’s all-academic team in college, Eryn named twice for volleyball, and Salesi and his brother Maika named for football.
• Not unlike Dick and his wife Mary Lou, who married in 1971 and then promptly moved to Oahu so Dick could work at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper, Salesi and Eryn also moved to Oahu after becoming engaged and married in Sacramento in September 2017.
Salesi is a proud Honolulu firefighter who told us that while he had done CPR on people on the job before, he had never done so in public when he wasn’t working. Dick’s cardiac arrest was the first time Salesi jumped into action as a bystander. He was in line behind us (as was UC Davis Medical Center nurse Claudio Alvarado and his partner, Camron Calloway, who comforted me) at midday Jan. 15 when Dick pitched forward “like a domino,” Salesi told us later. Both Salesi and Claudio should have already boarded the plane before us, but to our great luck, they were on the spot when we needed them.
The day Dick and our friends Cora and Connie (who cared for Dick for two weeks in Honolulu after I had to return home) flew back to Sacramento, they were greeted at the airport with an impressive Celebration of Life. Pam Foster of the AED Institute had arranged a major celebration with speeches by Salesi and others. That day Salesi, looking official in his uniform and lei, told the group, “All I did was compressions.”
Pam Foster said, gesturing toward Salesi, “That’s what it’s all about.” Because without Salesi, without Claudio’s care, without Chris Ohta of Hawaiian Airlines running for the AED that shocked him back to life, there would be no Dick Schmidt.
Here’s the story from Dick’s former newspaper, now called the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. (If you click on the highlighted link, you can also see the newspaper’s video about the Celebration of Life.)
We brought a couple of small gifts to Salesi and Eryn at dinner. When Dick presented Salesi with an autographed roll of Lifesavers, Dick said, “Your photo should be on here.” And it should. There should be a special award, as well as a special place in heaven, for people who come out of their regular lives to help in such a meaningful way. We were delighted to connect in our town with Eryn and Salesi and to call them ohana… and we will happily meet them for dinner every time they come to town now. Our treat!