LAHAINA — When highly talented writer and video maker Bonnie Nelson — lately known as “the Queen Bee” — visited Maui and the Keanae Peninsula in 1986, she was overwhelmed by its beauty.
Right there, like so many would-be newcomers, she knew she had to be here. A year later, she packed up her belongings, sold her car and landed on Maui with $1,000 to her name.
Flourishing on the island, Bonnie served two decades with Lahaina Galleries, the last five as vice president of finance overseeing eight retail galleries on both the Mainland and in Hawaii.
More recently, she wrote an audio book produced by her own Popoki Press LLC, hosts two websites (the Cheetah Portal and Cheetah Alliance), produces amazing i-movies, works with school children, keeps in touch with friends in African villages and plans to lead a safari to Kenya next year.
What she said was a “serendipitous event” changed her life and led her to quit her job to devote full-time effort to her many new interests. One Halloween under the Banyan Tree, Bonnie met a conductor of African safaris. Before long, she was off to Kenya.
“I was a corporate princess,” she noted. “I was inconvenienced by a lot of things. We were in five (luxury) tents, but when you went out of them, you had to go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground,” she explained.
Inspired by the animals she saw, Bonnie began writing, penning an intimate and frank portrait of her life based on letters to a boyfriend, as well as her safari experience. Back on Maui, she hired a narrator and produced an audio book, the “Cheetah Portal,” that later won a 2008 Nautilus Award for a “world-changing” audio book.
Enamored with cheetahs, she filled her home with cheetah photos and cheetah afghans, wore cheetah outfits and created the CheetahPortal.com. One of her missions was to teach Kenyan villagers not to poach for wild meat.
Nelson took another turn in life when she went down to Sacred Hearts School to give a talk to third-graders about cheetahs. She has been a regular volunteer at the school ever since, using new i-movie technology on her Apple computer to produce beautifully crafted movies she puts on YouTube. She even taught a columnist (sort of) how to do it.
Bonnie is now known at the “Queen Bee” because of her latest passion: an initiative to save bee populations.
“Bees are 100 million years old, but they have not evolved in that time. They were perfect then, and they are perfect now,” she enthused recently.
“We have lost two-thirds of bees in the last few years due to drought and other factors... one being cell phones and one being drought.”
Threats to bees relate to sustainability and threaten life. A bee’s role is not to produce honey but to pollinate crops. Without bees, there would be no crops.
Bonnie’s interest began when she noted that the Masai people in Kenya decided to get better meat production from their cattle. The cattle became afflicted with ticks. The tribesmen drove them through insecticide ponds once a week. Bees would then take water back from the cattle dips to cool their hives to deadly effect.
Long story short, Bonnie is part of a nationwide movement to save bees. And she is bringing that effort to Maui through West Maui Greenup. Students from Sacred Hearts are now fanning out throughout Lahaina to acquaint the public with the bee challenge. Nelson tells the story in a sensational video backed by Paul McCartney’s song, “Let it Be.”
Maui is filled with many remarkable people. This lady is right up there. (Watch for more on the Queen Bee and her supporters in the next column.)
Columnist’s Notebook: Visits to YouTube and Bonnie’s websites are well worth it. On YouTube, type in “Cheetah Portal” to see 31 videos of bees and “Sacred Heart School,” “Lahaina Library” or “Lahaina Seniors 2010” to see this columnist’s first i-movies. An early Bonnie video shown at the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunrise inspired this columnist to retain her to produce the YouTube movie “Voices of Maui” (type in those words to view it). Go to cheetahportal.com to purchase her book — all proceeds go to supporting her causes — and cheetahalliance.ning.com to join her “Bee Team.”