Hawaii Department of Health Director Loretta Fuddy, an NASW member for more than 40 years, died shortly after a plane crash late last year off the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
The pilot of the Makani Kai Cessna Grand Caravan made an emergency water landing after the single engine failed.
All nine passengers, including 65-year-old Fuddy, made it out of the plane and into the water. According to news reports, Fuddy suffered a cardiac arrhythmia while waiting for rescuers, and she was ultimately the only fatality of the crash.
NASW Hawaii Chapter Executive Director Marty Oliphant said the chapter worked with Fuddy on numerous projects and community outreach efforts. He said she leaves a legacy of helping people navigate within and across systems.
“Her commitment to the health and well-being of the people of Hawaii has been evidenced by the numerous awards she has received regarding her work with children and families, individuals, communities, and the field of social work,” Oliphant said.
Rita Webb, NASW senior policy adviser for women and LGBT issues, worked closely with Fuddy over the years on collaborative projects with the American Public Health Association and the Health Resources and Services Administration. They both worked to develop the Public Health Social Work Standards and Competencies.
Webb said Fuddy’s position at the Hawaii Department of Health exemplified macro public health.
“She will be missed and remembered as a champion of macro public health social work leadership and for her love, commitment and caring for the people of Hawaii,” Webb said.
Gary Gill, acting director of the Hawaii Department of Health, said Fuddy was a tireless and effective advocate for the health needs of the most vulnerable people of Hawaii.
He said her decades of experience, knowledge of the workings of government, keen intellect, and sense of humor made her respected and loved by those around her.
“The shock and tragedy of her loss is still deeply felt by the Department of Health, but her leadership and vision will continue to guide us forward,” Gill said.
Fuddy had been director of the Hawaii Department of Health since 2011, and was the first social worker to hold the position.
Many people may have heard of Fuddy when, as Hawaii’s health director, she confirmed the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate after questions arose as to whether Obama was born in the United States.
Fuddy’s funeral was held Dec. 21 in Honolulu, where Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie spoke.
Photo of Fuddy courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Health.