Helen Davis was born in Hanalei, Kauai on September 22, 1907. At the age of 10 she was sent to Oahu to live with her grandmother and attend Punahou School. She became a boarder at Punahou’s Castle Hall, graduating with the class of 1927. Territorial Normal School followed from which she earned her license as a dental hygienist.
Helen married Alan Sanford Davis, a rising businessman, March 18, 1930. They lived on his ranch, Wawamalu, in the Koko Head area until their beachfront home was destroyed by the tsunami of April 1, 1946. The family moved to Honolulu where Helen continued an interest in volunteer work.
Helen’s earliest volunteer work was through her membership in the Junior League of Honolulu when she helped to teach nutrition to young immigrant mothers. Her volunteer work went on to include serving on committees and board of directors of the Red Cross, YWCA, Kapiolani Hospital, Palama Settlement, Florica Pacificia, Moanalua Gardens Foundation, Historic Hawaii Foundation, Friends of Iolani Palace, the Hawaiian Humane Society where she was a director for 30 years and received recognition for her meritorious service from the American Humane Society.
In 1943 she joined the Garden Club of Honolulu where she served as a member chairman of almost every committee, held several offices, and was president from 1968 to 1970. She was Zone XII Chairman from 1961 to 1974 and received the Garden Club of America’s Creative Leadership award in 1982.
By 1950 Honolulu had become a big town and Helen was deeply involved in civic improvement and conservation. After 10 years of working with the Outdoor Circle she became president of the organization in 1961. Her most important contribution was her successful program to put Diamond Head on the National Register for Historic Landmarks, preventing forever commercial encroachment there. In 1998 the organization Scenic Hawaii recognized Helen’s lifelong dedication to the beautification of Hawaii with a monkeypod tree planted in her honor in the city park between St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the Priory.
Well into her 90’s Helen was still riding horseback with her granddaughter, an Olympian Equestrian who lives in England. Her book “Helen Kapililani Sanborn Davis – Reminiscences of a Life in the Islands” as told to Maili Yardley was for many weeks among the top of the Honolulu Best Sellers list. Helen joyfully celebrated her 103rd birthday three months ago. She is survived by daughters, Nancy Pflueger and Linda Davis, eight grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren. Private services. Memorial donations suggested to forenamed organization of choice.