featured graphic for Da' Hawai'i Seniors Club during COVID-19

Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club is ohana

Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club (DHSC) was founded in 1998 as a non-profit social club where former residents of Hawaii, residents of Cerritos, and residents of other cities who were interested in Hawaiian culture could meet bi-monthly. The late Bennie Cabalona served as the club’s first President, and Fely Fagaragan was the club’s first Vice-President. They hoped to create fellowship and a family feeling while enjoying life with laughter and love as they shared the Aloha Spirit.

Donna Ray and Susan Stern of Da' Hawaii Seniors Club. Courtesy photo.
Donna Ray and Susan Stern of Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club. Courtesy photo.

When a person joins Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club, that person becomes a part of the club’s family, Ohana. The Aloha Spirit continues to touch members of Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club, especially through Donna Ray and Susan Toy Stern, who serve on the Board as Co-Chairs of Ohana Care. As Ohana Care Co-Chairs, Donna and Susan send condolences and sympathy cards to the family of members who died. After being informed by Board members about club members or their family, who are experiencing health problems, they send get-well cards.

Donna and Susan agreed to be Ohana Care Co-Chairs for 2020 and 2021. They thought, at first, that it would be easy to do Ohana Care because it involved just sending a few cards. However, when the Covid-19 virus became a pandemic, there was an even greater need for Ohana Care. They saw it as a labor of love for the members of our DHSC family and members of their immediate family. They said that they sent sympathy or get-well cards to 31 families in 2020- 2021 as of February 2021. Sadly, half of the cards sent were sympathy cards. Donna said it was “the most heart-wrenching time” when she had to send a condolence card to Rio Cabalona when his wife, Bennie, and her friend of 40 years, died in 2020.

Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club is grateful to have Donna and Susan as Ohana Care Co-Chairs who extend comfort and support to members and their families.

Since the club does not meet in person at this time, members may not have met Donna and Susan, so the following information will help people get to know more about their educational background, business experience, family, and past or current interests. Donna and Susan are close friends who became members of the club in 2017 after first joining the Beginning Hula Class at the Cerritos Senior Center. Donna was invited to join the Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club by her tennis-playing friend of 40 years, Bennie Cabalona. Bennie, Donna, and Susan enjoyed dancing hulas at classes at the Cerritos Senior Center. Susan shared a love of the music and dances of Hawaii, so when hula class members introduced her to Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club, she joined the club.

Donna was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, but moved to the mainland as a young girl. She has many relatives on the island of Kauai because her mother lived there with nine sisters and one brother. She said that her mother was of Japanese heritage and her father was Irish. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Riverside, where she majored in English and Psychology. She also played varsity tennis in high school and college. She met and married her college sweetheart, Nik Ray. They have two daughters, who are both married, and have two grandsons, who they call their “hearts delight.”

Before the Rays had their children, Donna was a retail store manager and area supervisor. She even wrote a point of sales manual for the company she worked for. She has additional business experience as owner of DMM Pipe and Fittings. She also was a substitute teacher for a short time, played tennis with the Cerritos Tennis Club, compiled a cookbook as a fundraiser for St. Irenaeus School, and served two years. St. Irenaeus Parents Club President.

Susan Toy Stern was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and moved to Cerritos in 1983. She has Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from UCLA and completed graduate coursework in Management and Human Resources. She started working for the County of Los Angeles while she was still at UCLA. She worked for the County of Los Angeles for 37 years until she retired in 2009 as Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Human Resources for the County of Los Angeles. It was after she retired from her job at Los Angeles County that Susan enrolled in the hula class in Cerritos. Her friendships with Da’ Hawaii Club members grew as she volunteered to be a Ohana Care Co-Chair.

In retirement, Susan has enjoyed traveling the world with family and friends, pre pandemic. She has taken frequent trips to see her two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two beautiful granddaughters, who live in Washington D.C. and New York. Her last trip back East was right before the travel ban last year, so she is looking forward to seeing them in person soon.

Susan has remained active with her UCLA family by becoming a Chancellor’s Society volunteer, supporting the Asian American Studies Center Internship Program, and serving as Alumnae President of Theta Kappa Phi, an Asian American interest sorority. She is becoming more skilled with the use of Zoom as a way to keep in touch virtually with her family and friends, including DHSC and her virtual hula class!

The members of Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club sincerely appreciates the voluntary work that Donna Ray and Susan Toy Stern do as Ohana Care Co-Chairs. They share the Spirit of Aloha to members and their families as they experience the loss of a loved one or experience health problems. They are looking forward to a time when they will be able to meet Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club members in person again at club meetings. Mahalo! Thank you, Donna and Susan, for sharing your loving and caring Aloha Spirit with Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club Ohana!