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Frances Chang Sherrard, educator and EHCC founder, dies at 98

Frances Chang Sherrard, an educator and matriarch of the East Hawaii arts community, died Nov. 20 at her Hilo home. She was 98.

The Maui-born Sherrard was, for 13 years, the principal of Chiefess Kapi‘olani Elementary School. She’s best known, however, as the East Hawaii Cultural Council chairwoman who in 1980 persuaded the county and then-Mayor Herbert Matayoshi to enter into a 20-year lease agreement with her organization for an abandoned, termite-infested but beautiful building on Kalakaua Avenue in downtown Hilo.

The state Legislature had appropriated $50,000 to remodel the building the previous year. That was the birth of the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and Sherrard served as its longtime chair.

“We envision an office, meeting rooms, workshop spaces, a gallery, a small performance area and rehearsal space for the performing arts,” Sherrard told the Tribune-Herald in 1980. She added the arts center was “sorely needed” and part of the “redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown area.”

Former Mayor Harry Kim on Wednesday expressed his admiration of Sherrard’s ability to envision and complete projects.

“Whenever I saw her, I used to think to myself, where does she get her energy?” Kim said. “There’s a sadness, because we’re losing special people who really made a difference in our community. She was one of those people.”

Sherrard was twice widowed. Her first husband was Ernest Bowen de Silva, a Department of Education district superintendent, who died in 1959 and for whom a Hilo elementary school is named.

She later married Joe Sherrard, a World War II Marine Corps veteran who retired as a University of Hawaii at Hilo culinary instructor. He died in 2009.

Aaron Geerlings, Sherrard’s grandson, came to live with his grandparents to attend UH-Hilo and ended up staying “much longer” than anticipated.

“We were very, very close,” Geerlings said Wednesday. “We very much enjoyed each other’s company.”

Geerlings said one of his grandmother’s favorite stories was about the start of her teaching career at an elementary school in Puna.

“She said she would take a bus ride on an old, bumpy road for two-and-a-half, three hours to get to Puna, and then stayed with other teachers at a home that had a wood-burning stove,” he said. “It was a different time. “Nowadays, everything is Tik Tok and Facebook, and it’s virtual. And back then, everything was physical. You had to do stuff, and she did.”

Sherrard’s community service also included the auxiliaries of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. She also was a member of the Hawaii State Teachers Association-Retired and the Zonta Club of Hilo, which in 2014 honored her with its Rose Award of Excellence for her community service.

A celebration of her life is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at EHCC. Casual attire; face masks and social distancing are required.

Sherrard is survived by stepdaughters, Celeste Sherrard of Las Vegas, Kathie Sherrard of Hilo and Cynthia (Duncan) Galland of Diamondhead, Miss.; stepsons, Joseph (Dorothy) Sherrard and William Sherrard of Sacramento, Calif.; brother, Harold Chang of Honolulu; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Arrangements by Dodo Mortuary.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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