Mary A. (Kit) Glover has died aged 97 in Kāne’ohe, Hawai‘i. A physician admired as a strong, independent, intelligent woman, she spent her long life in service to others. Besides her MD she had a Master’s degree in International Public Health, and worked in Hawai‘i and abroad, always seeking to serve victims of social injustice.
Kit came to Hawai‘i in 1950 as a new doctor, interning at Queen’s and Kapi’olani Hospitals, then filling in at both before opening her own practice in Kāne’ohe in 1954. Here, as she later said, restrictions blocked her from putting up a sign saying “Doctor’s Office”, but she was not prevented from posting one saying “Parking Space for Dr. Glover’s Patients”.
Kit did not stay put for long. In 1960, she joined the hospital ship Project Hope on its maiden voyage, spending 4-1/2 months in Indonesia. In 1963, she volunteered for 3 months in American Sāmoa, and did field work in Micronesia in connection with her degree in International Public Health, awarded in 1968. That same year she joined Operation Crossroads Africa, expecting to spend two years in Dahomey (later Benin), but was evacuated by stretcher within a month, disabled by Crohn’s disease. This was apparently triggered by a corn allergy she didn’t know she had; unfortunately while in Africa she had experimented with living exclusively on corn. In 1973, Kit went to Viet Nam as medical consultant for an adoption agency and to adopt a child of her own. She had expected to look for a girl, but could not resist the lively Hai Nguyen, then a boy of 8-1/2. She would return to Viet Nam years later, when Hai went there for his wedding. He now lives in San Diego with his wife and three sons.
Kit had moved to Nānākuli in about 1970 so as to provide medical services to some of the poorest people on the island of O‘ahu, and to be part of the community there. This is where she brought her new son. Hai spent much of his time with the neighbors--other children and also adults, including Puakea Nogelmeier, who was to be a lifelong friend to Kit and Hai. As a young man Puakea did Kit’s yard work in exchange for medical care, and was a frequent hiking companion; later, when a professor at the University of Hawai‘i, he taught a community class in Hawaiian language, and Kit was his eager student. In the end he was a great help in moving her into memory care and supporting her there with friendship and endless games of Scrabble, in which she continued to excel, despite her memory loss.
Kit was born in Illinois in 1922 to Carl Glover (a Protestant minister) and Nan Gardner Glover. Her mother died when she was twelve and her father remarried three years later. Some part of her childhood was spent in Riverside, California, but she went to high school in Ohio and then to Oberlin College, graduating in 1943.
After her freshman year at Oberlin, Kit’s father announced that it was up to her to pay her way from then on, and she began to do all kinds of jobs. She picked crops, waited tables, did cleaning, worked a switchboard. In her last summer at Oberlin Kit was working in a hotel when a guest, the CEO of the Detroit Edison Company, offered to lend her the money for her last year of college. Kit accepted the loan, and paid it back in full after her first year in medical practice.
Having had to support herself so early may have contributed to Kit’s famous thrift, including her custom of hitchhiking. As a young woman she hitchhiked from Seattle to Michigan for a family reunion. She was still hitching in old age, whether from Mānoa to Nānākuli, or to her beloved Kaua‘i beach house in Anahola from the Līhu‘e airport. Her friends and family were always shocked and worried, but if she ever had trouble with a ride she never mentioned it.
Kit might have passed medicine by after her D in college chemistry, but way opened. She had a job with Hanford Engineer Works along the Columbia River in Washington State, and met, she said, “a flagman who was really a high school chemistry teacher and excellent”. He tutored her and made the subject clear. When she had a job administering aptitude tests she took one herself and found she would be well suited to medicine—now her future was set.
Although her father was a minister, Kit was drawn to Quakerism in her first years away from home. She joined University Friends Meeting (Seattle) in 1945 while pre-med at the University of Washington, transferring to Honolulu Friends Meeting in 1952. She was always a Quaker activist, lending her presence, giving her support, and speaking up for the environment, peace, and those less fortunate. In her many years in HFM she was usually on Peace & Social Concerns Committee and House & Grounds, and at age 82 she traveled to Australia to attend a meeting of Friends World Committee for Consultation. Kit was still attending meeting for worship in her final years. She could still contribute in Business Meeting even with memory flickering in and out: the last question she raised was “Why are we spending all this money on this?”
Prepared by Sasha Bley-Vroman, 8 December 2019
With the help of Anne Gardner Remley, Kate Remley, Carolyn Stephenson, Puakea Nogelmeier, and Ruth Lindley