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Marni Herkes dies after long illness

A tireless community volunteer best known for her long service as the chamber’s executive director died recently, leaving behind a legacy of civic-minded engagement.

Maralyn “Marni” Dyer Herkes died Nov. 21, 2018, in Kona after a long illness. She was 85.

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She served as the executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce from 1990-2001, where her footprint is still felt today.

“Her legacy continues with the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce as she will always be an integral part of our organization’s story,” said current Executive Director Wendy Laros. “She was an amazing woman and so dedicated to our community.”

Many aspects of Kona life today were projects that Herkes worked on and truly cared about. She strongly advocated direct flights to Kona, actively promoted the Kona-Kohala coast, lobbied for capital improvement projects including road infrastructure and was a strong proponent for a college campus in Kona.

“She was a strong, strong woman,” said Ross Wilson, a friend who worked with her on a number of projects. “She was one of the more iconic people here. At the end of the day, she made Kona and West Hawaii a better place to live.”

Herkes worked on beautifying Kona through her efforts as Kona Outdoor Circle president and advocated for small businesses as statewide director of the Main Street program. She was an active participant in the formulation of the Kona Community Development Plan and a longtime volunteer member of the Saddle Road Task Force. For many years she worked with Tamoe Nimori and Alfreida Fujita on developing the first scenic byway in Hawaii — Mamalahoa Kona Heritage Corridor through the historic village of Holualoa.

Herke’s plate was always full. Among other things she also worked, served or volunteered with The Kohala Center, League of Women Voters, West Hawaii Fisheries Council, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Five Mountains Hawaii and the iconic Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. She also served on the Hawaii County Charter Commission.

The Rotary Club of Kona recognized Herkes with its Vocational Service Award for her contribution to West Hawaii including helping to start VASH (Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii). The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce awarded Herkes its Pualu Lifetime Service Award for her lifelong commitment to the community exemplified by her personal and business achievements. She was a longtime Democratic Party member.

Born in Spokane, Washington, Herkes graduated from Punahou in 1951. Although not generally known, Herkes was a retail master and worked for and managed several businesses including Hilo Hattie’s and The Jewel Palace. Her full life included stints in Honolulu where she worked at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and Hilo at Lyman House Museum.

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She is survived by her sons Robert (Lynn) Herkes of Ecuador, Ken Herkes of Florida, and Doug Herkes (Ann Cobb) of Waikoloa; granddaughter Sara (Travis Rupp) Herkes of Colorado and a niece and a nephew. She was preceded in death by sister Loretta Kline.

Arrangements by Dodo Mortuary with a celebration of life planned 3-6 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Honokohau Big Game Fishing Club.