Memorial surf day to honor slain lifeguard


KAILUA-KONA — To those who knew her as a colleague or friend, Joy Mills-Ferren — “Aunty Joy” to many — was a woman whose talents, especially as a lifeguard, were “unsurpassed.”

“She was a tremendous, conscientious person,” said Susan Olson, friend and neighbor of the woman. “She was full of love, and ‘joy’ reflected her name.”


Mills-Ferren, a lifeguard at Laaloa and Kahaluu beach parks, was killed last August. Police said in February she was shot by her husband in what was ruled a murder-suicide.

She is also remembered for her generosity, such as her involvement with Surf for Special Needs,a local nonprofit organization that aims to create opportunities for people to experience the ocean.

To honor her, the organization is hosting a memorial surf day Aug. 17 at Kahaluu Bay’s north beach.

“We wanted to do something to repay her,” said Surf for Special Needs president and founder Star Shortt. “Because she was at every event, first one in line taking kids, you know, ‘What do you guys need?’ And it’s just kind of like a no-brainer.”

The last time senior lifeguard Ricky Alvarez, who worked with Mills-Ferren for about 10 years, said he saw Mills-Ferren was when she was volunteering at a Surf for Special Needs event at Kahaluu.

After Alvarez got the OK to put together some kind of ceremony in honor of the longtime oceangoer and hula dancer, he connected with Shortt and asked if he’d be willing to host something.

Shortt, Alvarez added, was “totally for it.”

“We can still remember her,” Alvarez said, “and just take a timeout and just remember the things that she did for us and the good times that we had in ocean safety.”

The memorial surf day, scheduled for 8 a.m.-4 p.m., will be the organization’s seventh event since the group began last May.

Alvarez said he had a lot of respect for the deep pride Mills-Ferren took in her work and her persistence to do her best.

“Some people come to this job and look at it as just lifeguarding and an easy task,” he said. “But she lived the lifestyle of lifeguarding. She trained every day in the water and was surfing every day.”

Olson said she sees the upcoming event as an opportunity to honor Mills-Ferren’s memory and legacy.

“This is an opportunity to bring everyone together again and remember how much we loved her for all the various reasons,” she said. “And it still is part of the healing process.”

A coconut tree also will be planted and a memorial plaque will be installed at the beach prior to the celebration.

“For me it’s symbolization that she’s still here in spirit,” Alvarez said, “and she’s still looking over all the people.”


For more information, visit and click “Upcoming events” under the “Events” tab.

Email Cameron Miculka at

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