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The Navy put 27-year-old Jack Peters on a plane bound for Oahu in 1943. Flying over Keehi Lagoon, the four-engine seaplane sputtering and swaying, Peters got his first glimpse of the Hawaiian Islands, and swore to himself right then and there that he’d make this place his home.
For several years, Peters worked for a Navy-run airline, jetting between islands in the South Seas. When his time in the military was up, he landed a job working for the Federal Aviation Administration, which led to subsequent assignments to the control towers at Honolulu and Hilo International Airports. Peters spent eight years in Hilo, where he met his future wife, Virginia, and had two daughters, Kathryn and Diane.
The Peters briefly lived in St. Louis Heights before a friend offered to let them stay in his rental in Kailua. “He called us and said his tenant had left and would we house-sit for him for six months,” says Virginia. “And that was the way we got to Kailua. We liked it so much that we started looking for a house for ourselves.”
Drawn to Kailua’s small-town, country charm and at-ease residents, the Peters purchased a home in the Pōhākupu development, the first of four properties they would own in Kailua, and one that was followed a few years later by a house in the new development of Olomana.
“I think my best memories were of this area,” says daughter Kathryn Maberry, now a resident of Upcountry Maui along with her sister, Diane.
“The thing that I remember the most vividly is just the really nice, small, beach-town feel. It was secure—we never locked our doors at night and we could walk on the beach in the evening and not be afraid.”
The Olomana house is currently home to Jack and Virginia’s 29-year-old granddaughter, Daeja Fernandez, a freelance photographer who was born on Oahu, grew up on Maui and lived in New York City, Paris and Makawao before moving back to Kailua a few years ago with her husband, Justin, in tow.
Daeja spent summers in Kailua with her grandparents and her best friends, two sisters who lived next door to the Peters in their third house in Kailua Estates (now Enchanted Lakes). The girls filled the days riding their bikes back and forth between the nearby coconut grove and climbing the plumeria trees in Daeja’s grandparents’ backyard. “We were always playing and having a good time,” says Daeja. “I don’t ever remember anyone coming out and saying, ‘Be careful of other people.’ It was always, ‘Don’t fall. Don’t climb the tree.’”
Jack and Virginia currently reside in the Maunawili home they bought in the mid-’60s, and are delighted to have Daeja living in the old house just up the road.
“I like to come down here [to Olomana] once in a while,” says Jack. “It reminds me of all the nice things that happened when I lived here.”
For Jack and Virginia, Kailua has been the perfect home, an ideal place to raise their two daughters, to spend time with their grandchildren and to grow old together.
“We just decided [Kailua] was the place for us,” says Virginia.
Jenny Quill is a freelance writer who makes her way over the Pali every chance she gets to indulge in Kailua Beach’s soft, sandy shores, Kalapawai Market’s creamy mac-and-cheese and the Kailua weekly farmers’ market.