Our Islands, Our Future

A retired optometric physician, Bernard Brown, now eyes guests at the Maui Ocean Center with smiles and warm embraces as he greets them to the island’s only aquarium. “The visitors who come to Maui are very interested in what the island has to offer, and I’m happy to tell them all about it,” he said. Brown, a part-time Wailea resident with another home in Salem, OR, has been volunteering during the winter season for six years. His most recent assignment has been to speak to the hundreds of visitors who arrive by bus to visit the Ocean Center. “I just want these people to feel real comfortable and glad that they’ve come to Maui,” he said.

Brown has won admiration for his welcoming mannerisms from visitors who offer tips (he doesn’t accept any) and from the staff at the Maui Ocean Center. This year, employees treated Brown and his wife, Selma, to lunch at the aquarium’s restaurant for their 66th wedding anniversary. The staff also writes mahalo notes to Brown each year. “Bernard is a treasure, always with a smile on his face and ready with a warm embrace … His contribution is greatly appreciated,” Maui Ocean Center General Manager Katie Zolezzi said. Selma Brown said she supports her husband’s volunteer efforts. “He’s great at what he does, and they treat him so well too,” she said.

Brown said that while he appreciates the compliments, he makes sure to give them right back. For example, when greeting Ocean Center visitors, he recognizes their bus driver who brought them to the aquarium. “No one seems to give them credit,” he said. He also praises each individual for taking the time to visit the island. “Vacation people are great. For the most part, they’re in a good mood. I love the downers too. I try to get them happy,” Brown said. “This is all fun and very rewarding for me.”