SITA NISSANKA May 6, 1929 to June 9, 2015 Leelanganie "Sita" Nissanka (Byrne), a Honolulu resident for almost 50 years, passed away in San Ramon, California. She was 86. A public health researcher and educator, Sita was a prolific oil painter, watercolorist, and batik artist, and her work was exhibited in galleries and private collections. Born on the family plantation in Sri Lanka, (then Ceylon), Sita graduated from the University of London, and won a UN scholarship to study in Japan. She returned to Sri Lanka to lead vocational training at the College of Agriculture. She moved to Hong Kong to serve in the Department for World Service, providing rehabilitation and training to refugees. She married Desmond Byrne from London. Sita held positions at Variety Club School, Cancer Research Center, and Pacific Basin Rehabilitation Research Center. They were a host family to students from throughout Asia studying at East-West Center and opened their home for family meals and short-term stays. Sita famously hosted Sri Lankan dinners for friends and taught cooking classes. Sita became the first woman to earn both a master's and doctoral degree in Public Health from UH-Manoa. At King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, she led research to improve access to healthcare for Muslim women. Sita returned to Honolulu and became director of the Native Hawaiian Health Professions Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to Native Hawaiians for advanced medical training, after which they serve local underserved communities. Sita helped hundreds of students graduate with degrees in medicine, dentistry, and nursing, increasing the ranks of Native Hawaiians practicing medicine throughout the islands. Sita is survived by a sister and niece in Colombo, two children, daughter, Maya McBride (Dan), son, Jahan Byrne (Jennifer Derby), and four grandsons. Contributions may be made to Variety School of Hawaii or Honolulu Museum of Art.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased