Hiker's death a 'big loss' for many
By John Windrow
Advertiser Staff Writer
WAI'ANAE — People in Wai'anae yesterday used phrases like "tragic loss" and "great shame" to describe the death of Wai'anae High School teacher Michael Anderson, 25, who was killed in a fall Friday while hiking in Mäkaha Valley with another teacher.
"He was the reason I graduated," said Davalei Hussey, 20, a 2008 graduate of Wai'anae High.
Hussey said Anderson, who came to the Leeward Coast as part of the Teach for America program after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, always made sure she did all her work in his math class and mastered the material.
"I was failing the course and he gave me the work and stayed with me after school to make sure I did it," Hussey said yesterday. "His main concern was that everyone moved on with their lives and graduated. He was a really good person."
Anderson was also a community leader as a member of the Wai'anae Neighborhood Board, with a passion for many causes and a great dedication to Wai'anae and its people, said Jo Jordan, who chairs the board.
Jordan said it was rare to see such dedication and commitment in someone as young as Anderson.
"He was concerned about a lot of things," she said, "the environment, school issues, traffic, economic development. He was willing to tackle everything, up for any challenge."
Rescue crews found Anderson's body Saturday morning. Honolulu Fire Capt. Earle Kealoha said Anderson had fallen some 200 feet late Friday afternoon while hiking with a friend. Jordan said Anderson's companion was a new teacher at Wai'anae High.
The fall occurred in the same area where 1st Lt. Garland English, a decorated platoon leader stationed at Schofield Barracks, fell 400 feet to his death on Jan. 10.
Rescuers said Anderson slipped and fell from a ledge near the Mäkaha Valley Towers condominiums. Another hiker called 911 at about 5:45 p.m. and rescue crews worked until the search was called off at about 10 p.m. Friday because of darkness and poor weather.
The search resumed early Saturday morning and rescuers found Anderson's body at 6:45 a.m. about a quarter-mile from the condominiums, said Kealoha.
Jordan said Anderson was well accepted in the community and "well liked at that school," which can be challenging for a newcomer on the Wai'anae Coast.
"He was very concerned about his students," Jordan said, and he lived in Mäkaha Valley near the school. "I don't think he even had a vehicle. He always caught rides to the board meetings."
Students said Anderson usually walked or biked to school.
"He was a rising star," Jordan said. "I really thought he would be in our community for his entire career. It's a large loss."
William Aila, agent for the Wai'anae Small Boat Harbor, yesterday called Anderson's death "a big loss for everybody at the high school and in the community. He was a person who had made a big impact in our community."
Roberta Searle, who was attending services yesterday at Hope Chapel on the Wai'anae High School campus, described Anderson as "a very cordial young man" and always saw the best in his students, who could at times be tough to deal with.
"I told him I might not be so nice to them, and he would say, 'Oh they're fine, they're good students.'
"I always saw him in the community. He loved the Wai'anae Coast. Mr. Anderson got along with everybody."
Christopher Hennen, of Leesburg, Va., called his childhood friend, Anderson, "my best friend." He and his wife, Priscilla, said Anderson grew up in comfortable circumstances in Maryland and wanted to give back to people who did not have the same advantages he had. "He always wanted to help other people," Christopher Hennen said.
Priscilla Hennen added, "He was a beautiful soul, and we miss him so much."
They said Anderson's parents are Mr. and Mrs. Nils Anderson of LaPlata, Md. He is also survived by two younger brothers, they said.
Remembering her graduation, Davalei Hussey said yesterday: "I told him that without him I never would have graduated.
"He laughed and hugged me."