Obituary for David "Buddy" Nobriga
David “Buddy” Nobriga passed away peacefully on November 8, 2017. He was 90 years old.
Buddy was one of Hawai‘i’s premier cattlemen, one of Maui’s most respected businessmen and philanthropists, and the patriarch of a family with roots that now reach five generations deep on Maui.
Born on December 7, 1926 into a family of Portuguese immigrants that arrived on Maui in 1886, his family has devoted itself to running and building successful small businesses and to serving the community. His parents were Manuel and Emily Nobriga. For more than half a century the Nobriga family has owned and operated Maui Soda & Ice Works, Ltd., the Coca-Cola® bottler/distributor that has served Maui and Lāna‘i since 1924, and the manufacturer of Roselani® Ice Cream. Maui Soda & Ice Works has been in business on Maui for 133 years.
Buddy’s grandfather Antone established Nobriga Ranch as a family operation in Kahakuloa in 1930. In 1965, Buddy and his father Manuel formed Nobriga’s Ranch, Inc. Buddy was President/Chairman from 1981. The land and the cattle raised there are, literally, parts of him.
Buddy started working part-time for Maui Soda & Ice Works in 1941; he was a freshman at St. Anthony’s School. His high school years were interrupted by World War II. He was drafted in 1944 and, fortunately, on his way to service in the Pacific theater, the war ended. When he returned to Maui, he completed his last few months of high school and went back to work at the family companies. When his father, Manuel, retired from Maui Soda in 1971, Buddy became president and ten years later he was CEO.
In addition to running the family businesses that include the cattle ranch and a feedlot, Buddy for many years advocated for Hawai'i’s cattlemen at both the State Capitol and in Washington, D.C. He lobbied for and provided language for many pieces of legislation including laws that provided for the promotion of beef products and meat inspection. He helped form the Maui Cattleman’s Association in 1970 and served as its president for ten years and was president of the Hawai'i Cattleman’s Council for four years. He served on the Board of Water Supply for 20 years, held positions on the State Water Commission and in the Department of Agriculture.
He served on dozens of boards and received more community service awards than the walls and shelves in his office can hold. He was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame in 2001.He was named the Maui County Council Boy Scouts of America’s Distinguished Citizen in 2002. He won the first ever Friend of Agriculture Award presented by The Hawai'i Agriculture Conference in 2004, Maui Weekly’s first ever Person of the Year Award (2004), the 2008 Mayor’s Small Business Lifetime Achievement Award, and in that same year was named one of the People Who Made a Difference by The Maui News. In 2013, he was inducted into the Hawai’i Restaurant Association Hall of Fame. And in 2014, came what is arguably his company’s highest honor to date. Maui Soda & Ice Works, Ltd. was named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the Family-Owned Business of the Year for State of Hawai’i. Later this month, he will be posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hawai‘i Cattleman’s Council.
Besides his family and its businesses, he always said he was most proud of his 54 years of service to the West Maui Soil & Conservation District. For 50 of those years, he served as its chairman. He and his colleagues are responsible for creating the Honolua watershed which protects the Nāpili area from flooding, for cleaning up the ocean in the Kahana area, and for work on the Lahaina watershed project throughout the last two decades. In 2009, Buddy was one of four people in the Pacific Islands recognized as environmental heroes by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This was national acknowledgement for founding the West Maui Soil and Water Conservation District. EPA officials said his years of commitment to the environment provided the needed leadership to advance a system designed to prevent the pollution of West Maui coastal waters. He also organized Maui’s Resource Conservation & Development, the first in the State, in 1970, serving as its chairman for ten years. Although he no longer served officially, he continued to be dedicated to the conservation of Hawai'i’s natural resources and mentors others in conservation practices.
Buddy served on the Maui County Board of Water Supply for decades including two terms as Chairman of the Board from 1969 to1973 and again from 1975 to1980. During those years he traveled extensively, floating bonds so that the the Kīhei/Mākena water lines could be built with assistance from Seibu Hawai‘i.
Buddy also counts his decades of service to the Federal Land Bank Association of Hawai’i (now known as Farm Credit Services) among his most significant because this organization serves specifically to help the State’s small farmers. He served as member for 36 years, twenty-six of them as Chairman of the Board. And after his retirement from that post last year, he continued to be available as an advisor whenever called upon.
Buddy Nobriga deeply instilled his core values – family, business, community service – into his children. From the Maui County Fair – Buddy had been involved since 1945 and served as Chairman in 1971 – to the Jaycees Carnival to St. Anthony Schools fundraisers to benefits for virtually every charitable organization and cause on the island regardless of size, Maui Soda is there. Coca-Cola® and Roselani Ice Cream® are always on the menus. It is not just the giving. It is the spirit in which the help is given that sets this patriarch and his family apart. He will be greatly missed by his family and by the community he helped to build.
He is survived by his five children, Michael (Kimberly), Catherine Nobriga Kim (John), James “Jay” (Wendy), David (Ione), and Robert, eight grandchildren, Buddy James (Maire), Joshua, Jaelynn, Michael (Kathryn), Ethan, Kaitlin, Charleene, RickAlan, and three great grandchildren Mahinatea, Buddy, and James Nobriga. He is also survived by two brothers, Brian and Alvin “Teddy” Nobriga. He was pre-deceased in 2015 by his wife of 62 years Barbara (nee Eberly) and by a grandson, Robert Daniel.
Viewing will take place Friday, Nov. 24th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., prayer service from 8:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at St. Anthony Catholic Church, Wailuku. On Saturday, Nov. 25th, public viewing 8:30 a.m., eulogies 11:00 a.m., and noon Mass, all at St. Anthony Catholic Church, Wailuku. Burial at 2:00 p.m. at Maui Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the St. Anthony School General Fund. Please mail to St. Anthony School, 1618 L. Main St. Wailuku, 96793 or donate via the website at www.sasmaui.org