As a third grader in Columbus, Ohio, Jo DesMarets was assigned a project on the newly-annexed state of Hawaii. It was then, she says, that she knew the islands would be her home someday.
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In 1971, she and her husband moved to Oahu after he completed his service in the Vietnam War. Although they ended up divorcing, DesMarets stayed in Hawaii, receiving both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in social work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
She went on to spend 30 years as a social worker for incarcerated women, and eventually became a parole officer. She retired in December of 2015.
“I always encouraged my clients to get their education because I consider education to be the key to a successful, meaningful life,” said DesMarets. “Many of my clients achieved their GEDs and many went on to college. Over the years, some of my former clients became my peers as they found post education careers in the social services.”
DesMarets regularly volunteers through the Betsuin’s Buddhist Women’s Association, the Hawaii Humane Society and Maluhia Adult Day Health Center. She began working with the latter after her dear friend Edith Maeda passed away in 2009.
“I was so grateful to the staff at Maluhia Adult Day Health for the wonderful care given to my dear Edith that I wanted to get involved, so I started volunteering,” she said. “Community service is a great example of our interdependence. The incredible exchange of energy creates a flow of giving and receiving, learning and teaching, supporting and being supported that sustains our existence as a community in a way that shows we care.”