WEST MAUI - Commitment is Anthony LaBlanca's middle name - commitment to his wife, family, church, values and community.
In a cozy ceremony held last week Thursday on the picturesque grounds of the historic Waiola Church in Lahaina, LaBlanca was recognized by the County Council with a certificate of appreciation "for providing over 17 years of outstanding volunteer service, contributing to the beautification of Honoapiilani Highway and the West Maui Community," West Side Councilmember Elle Cochran said.
He's more commonly known as "The Man that Cleans the Highway," and the now 76-year-old LaBlanca "has been cleaning Honoapiilani Highway from Honokowai to Mahinahina" Dave Matthews commented " then he walks up Airport Hill then the lower road back to Papakea."
West Maui County Councilwoman Elle Cochran thanked Anthony LaBlanca for his volunteer efforts in a ceremony last week Thursday. PHOTO BY LOUISE ROCKETT.
Cochran, a Honolua resident, has observed LaBlanca "out there no matter what." Rain or shine, "He's always out there."
"I like people who walk their talk. Actions, for me, speak louder than words ever can," she remarked.
LaBlanca was recognized on the eve of his departure.
"1971, we first came to Maui," his loving wife, Marie, told the Lahaina News, "and we moved here in 1995 full-time."
Since then, West Maui has been the beneficiary of their retirement to volunteerism.
In their previous lives, Marie was a full-time medical practice administrator.
Anthony "ran a big construction landscape company on the East Coast in Connecticut. It's outside of New Haven, near Yale University; a little town called Hamden - very, very nice. Used to be a farming town; lots of Italians," he laughed.
"I was really, really busy. I never really had time to get involved with the community. When I was able to retire and come here, I had time to do what I should have been doing back east," he confided.
His values inspire him.
"It is part of my civic duty to give back to the community. My wife and I do a lot of volunteer work," Anthony said.
That's an understatement.
"Tony and Marie exemplify the definition of volunteerism. Their giving of countless hours to their church and its school, the West Side community and to their friends is to be admired and applauded," Kahana resident Richard Manthei noted.
"We're both very active in Maria Lanakila Parish. My husband has been on the school board of Sacred Hearts School. He's involved with the Building and Facilities Committee. He's been involved with the maintenance, the property work. Wherever they needed help, he was always available. He was also responsible for putting the irrigation in the cemetery - he did all that single-handedly," Marie explained.
"We're both active up there (in Kapalua) as well. He's an usher up there. I've been the outreach coordinator for over 15 years for the whole parish - Maria Lanakila, the church, the cemetery, the school and the mission church up at Kapalua."
They've been fixtures at the annual Sacred Hearts Bazaar, Matthews said.
As a representative of the parish, Marie served on the task force for both the Homeless Resource Center and Women Helping Women.
For family and medical reasons, the couple is moving to Northern California, where their children and grandchildren live.
They'll be back for winter vacations.
In the meantime, they'll miss their island family.
"Ohana is a big thing here. So many people have wrapped their arms around us and welcomed us," Marie said.
"Every different ethnic background," Anthony added without skipping a beat. "You don't find that on the Mainland."
"That was very important to us; we felt welcomed from the first day. Our church has also been very welcoming to us," Maria continued. "Then, of course, the weather helps."
They looked at each other, the way couples that have been married for years do, and laughed.
"We'll be back."