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The Power of One

After four decades of public service in Hawaii, Cecilia Blackfield isn’t done yet.


As Cecilia Blackfield sits in her Kahala home, she thumbs through a scrapbook of accomplishments, marked in newspaper clippings, photos and letters, yellowed over time.

From the moment she stepped off the Lurline in 1958, Blackfield involved herself in the Honolulu community. She joined environmental groups such as The Outdoor Circle, the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society and was a founding member of Scenic Hawaii. When high-rise development was slated for the base of Diamond Head, Blackfield helped champion preservation until the crater was declared a national monument. She fought against high-rise development throughout Honolulu, from Kuhio Beach to Magic Island, and battled the city and county to keep a Burger King out of Kapiolani Park.

At age 92, Cecilia Blackfield is still fighting for causes she believes in, such as the upkeep and uses of the McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Beach Park.

photo by Rae Huo

Blackfield isn’t ready to call it a day. Instead, the 92-year-old conservationist donates her time and experience to the mayor’s advisory board of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“She’s a fighter, and everyone needs champions for certain issues,” says department director Les Chang, who lauds Blackfield’s dedication to McCoy Pavilion. Lester McCoy, Honolulu’s first park commissioner, helped design the familiar white bridges and landscaping at Ala Moana Beach Park. After his death, his wife, Hazel, established a fund for the community center in his honor. As a close friend of the McCoys, Blackfield has taken a particular interest in the upkeep and uses of McCoy Pavilion. “It’s nice to have someone who says, ‘This is the reason this place was built,’” says Chang.

In addition to her dedication to preserving Hawaii’s beauty, Blackfield remains devoted to Hawaii’s children, as well. Shortly after her son, Leland, passed away, she established the Leland Blackfield Youth Activity Center at Palama Settlement in 1989.

“It’s one of the most important things I’ve had the privilege of doing,” she says. Equipped with a pool and ping pong tables, study desks, computers, DVD centers and even an outdoor batting cage, the youth center draws in neighborhood kids seven days a week.

“A lot of these kids have nowhere else to go,” says Palama Settlement’s interim executive director, Jan Harada. “These kids are in a high-risk environment,” says Harada.

“They see gang violence, substance abuse, domestic violence. Without this center, there would be a lot more kids in trouble.”

On top of her annual donations, Blackfield, along with her friends in the community, awards yearly scholarships to neighborhood kids to provide recipients a chance to attend private high schools and colleges.

“They seem like little nothings,” says Blackfield of her individual victories. “But when you add them all up, it’s something.”

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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