Jan. 17, 2014
When President Barack Obama was attacked by those who questioned his Hawaii birth, Eleanor C. Nordyke proudly came forward with the birth certificates of her own twin daughters, born at the same hospital on the day after the president.
The numbers on the twins’ birth certificates were only a few digits away from the president’s, a fact Nordyke offered up in support of the authenticity of Obama’s certificate. Conspiracy theorists were unimpressed and actually found ways to weave Nordyke into the birther conspiracy.
Her daughter, Mary Ellen Nordyke-Grace, said the incident was emblematic of her mother’s zeal for what she believed in.
“She really took on a passion for certain causes,” she said. “She was known for her intellect, drive for excellence, generosity, perseverance, ‘can-do’ positive attitude, and passion for projects and causes.”
The author and historian died Jan. 17 at age 86. She was the primary author of “The Peopling of Hawaii” (1977, 1989), “I’m Third: An American Boy in Depression Years” (2003), and “Pacific Images: Views from Captain Cook’s Third Voyage” (1999, 2008).
A resident of Manoa Valley for nearly 60 years, Nordyke retired from the East-West Center Population Institute after a 20-year-plus affiliation.
After she appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser in 2009 holding up her twins’ birth certificates, birthers questioned their authenticity and suggested her motivation was somehow tied with her East-West Center link with Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, who studied there.
Nordyke came to Hawaii in the 1930s, when her father, Ralph G. Cole, served as an executive with the YMCA of Honolulu. After earning her nursing degree at Stanford University in 1950, she married Dr. Robert A. Nordyke.
They returned in 1960 to Honolulu, where her husband started his 35-year career in nuclear medicine at Straub Clinic & Hospital. She gained interest in the population field during her graduate work in public health at the University of Hawaii.
She was an active member of the Hawaiian Historical Society, Captain Cook Society in the United Kingdom, YMCA Camp Erdman board, Friends of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, Stanford Club of Hawaii, Adventure Club and Punahou School Class of 1945. She also was a volunteer at Straub.
She is survived by children Mary Ellen Nordyke-Grace, Carolyn Nordyke Cozzette, Dr. Thomas James Nordyke, Susan Elizabeth Bell and Gretchen (Nini) Carter Worthington; brother Ralph N. Cole; and 13 grandchildren.
Services will be held at Central Union Church on Feb. 17 at 4:30 p.m. Visitation is at 4 p.m., with a reception to follow the funeral.
Donations in her name may be sent c/o Nina Mullally, Straub Clinic & Hospital, 888 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813; or c/o Mandy MacMahan, YMCA of Honolulu, YMCA Camp Erdman, 69-385 Farrington Highway, Waialua, HI 96791.