"Angelica Ljungqvist was here today, and Charlie Wade came by the other day," says Eleanor Chu, a long-time fan of UH Mānoa athletics. The volleyball coaches visit "because they’re thankful, but what I’m doing is not that great. It’s just something I want to do."
Softball Head Coach Bob Coolen, Ljungqvist, Wade and others from the athletic department bring meals to the 91-year old Chu, tossing carefully packed food to the second-floor walkway outside her home, conversing from the driveway below. It’s a safe way for the coaches to connect with an ardent fan in these COVID-19 days of empty courts and quiet arenas.
Chu, who cites the 1971 and 1972 men’s "Fab Five" basketball teams among her fondest memories of UH sports, has committed part of her estate to Mānoa athletics to express appreciation for decades of joy.
"I know what it’s like to be a poor kid going to school, not having enough money to do everything I wanted to do. I want to make sure these athletes have a chance to do things for fun."
School was a job; education was a career
Fun wasn’t a priority when she attended UH Mānoa in 1947. Going to school was her job, she says. “I came from a family with 15 kids. I had no time for sports. It was my job to get a degree, go to work and help my family. I give the athletes of today a lot of credit! They work hard, they study hard and they give me a helluva lot of pleasure.”
After graduation, Chu taught at Waiakea-Kai, Pearl Harbor, and Ma‘ema‘e elementary schools, attending as many UH games as she could. She “doesn’t get out much” anymore, but she watches games on television. “I still enjoy them totally,” she says. “Sports are in my blood.”
Two of Chu’s brothers were the first Chinese students to earn athletics scholarships at Pomona College. One of them, Ung-Soy “Beans” Afook, was a legendary boys basketball coach at Hilo High School, and a namesake of the storied Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo.
A gift for future Rainbows
"I felt left out when I couldn’t participate in sports, as a young girl and as a college student," she says, "but I make up for it now. I do whatever I can to help the student-athletes." This is why she included them in her will and revocable living trust. Working with the Office of Estate and Gift Planning at the UH Foundation, she designated Mānoa athletics as an heir to receive most of her net estate.
Because it is a revocable commitment, Chu can use these funds for healthcare, travel, or any of her needs and wishes. In this way, she need not sacrifice anything today while offering a transformative gift to future Rainbow Wahine and Warriors.
"I’m not looking for fame—I just want to help the students," she says. "Besides, I can’t take it with me! What am I going to do with it in the next world? They don’t use money!"