During her 40 years on Maui, Virginia Jo "Gini" Baldwin was known for her extensive volunteer work, her warm personality and as the author of two island-inspired cookbooks, "Maui Cooks" (1984) and "Maui Cooks Again" (1994), both published to raise money for nonprofit groups.
"She was an anchor in my life," said Carol Chapman, a former Kula resident now living on Bainbridge Island, Wash. "We just liked each other for who we were. It was a very easy friendship."
The former Kula resident was one of Chapman's close friends, but their relationship - along with many others - ended last month in Washington state.
Virginia Jo “Gini”?Baldwin died of a stroke April 28 in Washington state.
Baldwin died of a stroke on April 28 with friends and family by her side at Martha & Mary, a home-care facility, on Bainbridge Island. She was 72.
"I just can't think of anything else to do her justice," Chapman said. "She just deserves a lot of praise that she never asked for."
Born on June 30, 1940, in Seattle, Baldwin moved to Maui 22 years later after graduating from the University of Washington and eventually became heavily involved with events and groups such as the Seabury Hall Craft Fair and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
"She was there from the get-go," said friend and Makawao resident Honey Bun Haynes of Baldwin's involvement with the craft fair. "She was real instrumental in getting it off the ground, and she made a really killer chow fun."
Aside from providing a yearly food booth in the craft fair that funds the school's Financial Aid Program, she was an active member at the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao.
"Gini was a member of the board for many years and served as vice president for several years," said board member Sandi Stoner. "She was often in charge of fundraisers and was very involved in exhibits."
Founded in 1934, the nonprofit organization has prided itself on encouraging arts education for Maui residents, and Baldwin would regularly host and organize exhibits.
"People forget that it used to be a little house at the fairgrounds at the county fair," said Chapman, who volunteered to help the organization, along with Baldwin. "By the 1970s, the idea for the fairgrounds was changing, and the group did not want to let go of the Hui. When the opportunity to move to Makawao came up, Gini was one of the gals that got the group to move."
The Upcountry center has since purchased 25 acres and holds regular workshops and visual arts classes led by teaching artists.
"She was very much an artist and lover of the arts," said Baldwin's daughter-in-law, Janet Baldwin. "She never did art, but very much loved it and supported it on Maui."
Janet Baldwin knew Virginia Baldwin for 24 years and was introduced to her when she began dating her oldest son, Jeff Baldwin.
"Coming into the family as an outsider I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I have to meet his mom and dad,' " Janet Baldwin said. "I met them and within the first five minutes I felt so warm and welcomed. Gini's number-one thing was bringing family and friends together . . . and she loved cooking."
Along with organizing the craft fair, Virginia Baldwin and a group of mothers created a cookbook to provide additional money for Seabury Hall.
She followed that venture by publishing "Maui Cooks," with all proceeds funding organizations such as the Mental Health Kokua - formerly known as Maui Kokua Services - where she served as a board member for a number of years. The nonprofit organization assists Hawaii people suffering from mental illnesses.
"Every time we met we would pull together recipes and cook them together," said fellow cook and longtime friend Judy Bisgard. She said Virginia Baldwin would host her and seven other friends for weekly recipe meetings in preparation for the cookbooks, typically at Haleakala Ranch where her ex-husband, Peter Baldwin, was the manager.
"We would try all the recipes and vote on which one was the best," Bisgard said. "We continually use those recipes, like Guamanian chicken, and there were some great salmon recipes too. Some recipes are sort of timeless."
When the MACC opened in 1994, Virginia Baldwin came back with her second cookbook, aptly named "Maui Cooks Again," with all proceeds donated to the center.
In emails sent to Chapman and Janet Baldwin, a half-dozen of Virginia Baldwin's closest friends praised her volunteer work and prowess as a hostess, calling her the "Queen on Maui."
"We all knew what a wonderful, always-at-ease hostess Gini was," wrote Haiku resident Jody Baldwin. "You could expect her kitties on the counter helping her prep, her golden retrievers sprawled on the floor, and everyone squeezing into the kitchen to be with Gini, while she created mounds of delicious foods."
Kula resident Penny James, who worked with Virginia Baldwin on both Maui cookbooks, also praised her cooking and hosting, and included her volunteer work.
"Gini had a guiding hand in so many young organizations that still bear her mark," she said. "And when the Arts & Cultural Center was built, Gini, again, raised money for that with another cookbook - 'Maui Cooks Again.' "
"She was like mother Earth," said Janet Baldwin. "Everybody loved her."
Virginia Baldwin is survived by her companion, James Barker; brother Conrad Mahnken; three sons, Jeffrey Baldwin, Richard "Duke" Baldwin and Christopher Baldwin; eight grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
A private ceremony will be held on Sunday in her home on Bainbridge Island. A celebration of life for friends and family will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. June 30 at a private estate on Maui.
For more information, send email to Janet Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.