‘I’m not good at sitting’

By Christie Wilson

‘Busy’ doesn’t begin to cover Adele Rugg’s daily schedule — and she likes it that way

KIHEI, MAUI >> Adele Rugg starts her day on the ocean off South Maui, paddling for exercise and fun at Kihei Canoe Club, and is on the go from there, attending meetings for a diverse collection of organizations, working on community-oriented projects, organizing events and socializing with friends.

“I’ve just always loved being busy,” says Rugg, who quips when asked that her age is “unlisted.”

“A great-aunt of mine always said, ‘Cherish each moment; it will never come back.’ So every day, busy, busy, busy — I just have to be busy. I’m not good at sitting,” says the 33-year breast cancer survivor.

The tireless Rugg, a native of Seaford, Del., moved to Maui from San Francisco in 1980 and went on to work as an executive assistant to former Mayor and Maui County Council member Alan Arakawa in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Kihei resident began volunteering as an usher at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, and while working for the mayor in 2004, she helped launch a weekly kanikapila summer music series that was held on the front lawn of Kalana O Maui, the county building in Wailuku.

Rugg also managed to get a piano donated and placed in the ninth-floor mayor’s conference room, where she would take breaks to play music while working late into the night.

“It was great,” says Rugg, whose parents owned a music shop in Delaware for 50 years.


She first learned music when she was 8, and today plays baritone saxophone with the 50-member Maui Community Band, whose youngest member is a middle schooler.

But Rugg is most passionate when it comes to causes for older residents. She is president of the AARP’s Kula chapter and meets regularly with other AARP leaders.

“I don’t want my seniors to say, ‘I have nothing to do,’” she insists.

Two recent achievements include obtaining AARP grants to install a bench at the Hale Mahaolu Ewalu senior housing complex in Pukalani and another soon to be placed in the community garden at the Kahului Lani affordable rental housing development for low-income seniors.

“In my grant writing, I wrote that seniors don’t have a place to sit and watch their flowers grow and talk story,” she says.

Among her other activities is serving as a board member of the Kihei Community Association, Maui Economic Opportunity Inc., Maui Green & Beautiful and the Maui Nurses Scholarship Foundation. She belongs to the Kiwanis Club of Maui, the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and the Italian American Social Club.

The latter group gathers monthly for potluck meals, and although Rugg is not Italian American, “I just love to eat.” That also explains why she heads the Maui contingent of Chaine des Rotisseurs, the world’s oldest international gastronomic society.

She also participates in Citizens On Patrol, an auxiliary of the Maui Police Department, conducting weekly checks of beach parking lots from Maalaea to Makena.

Although long embedded in the Maui community, Rugg hasn’t forgotten her roots. In 1989, she organized the first of the now yearly Delaware Day celebrations, welcoming other island residents and visitors from her home state with a big banner declaring, “Aloha from the 50th state to the First State.” The party recognizes the day Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787.


Still others may remember Rugg’s alter ego, Sparkles the clown, who used to cheer up young patients at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Although Sparkles is now retired, Rugg continues to nurture her sense of fun and performance in some of her current activities.

She serves as “Queen Diva Dell-Luscious” of the Red Hot Mamas of Maui, a chapter of the international Red Hat Society, which Rugg describes as “the world’s largest fun group for women of all ages.” She maintains the “Hats Up” online directory of free events, activities and services on the chapter’s website at redhotmamasofmaui.com.

“It’s 20 pages of stuff on Maui,” Rugg explains. “All the ladies know my favorite four-letter word starts with an ‘F’ — and it’s ‘free.’ I’m always trying to find stuff because sometimes the seniors don’t know where to go.”

Her volunteerism has earned her recognition from Maui County and the governor, but Rugg isn’t so deeply involved in the community for the accolades.

“I love being around people and I love the interaction,” she says. “I want people to be happy. There is so much sadness on the planet and on Maui, and I’m not there, that’s not me. So I want to lift people up — truly, truly.”

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