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Know Who You Are: Our Founder, Monroe Woollard

Monroe Woollard was a giant among men. He possessed that rare combination of pure heart and extreme strength. He was both idealistic and pragmatic. To stay fit, Monroe would put his kayak on a dolly, tie it around his waist with a rope, run from Kahala down to Magic Island, put the kayak in the water, and paddle home. He

Kristine Altwies and Monroe Woollard

in China, 1992

built numerous homes and offices, often working alone, and usually improvising the plans as he went. He wrote poetry, painted pictures, and traveled the world. He had an unusual gift with children, and never met a baby he didn’t love. Monroe was an incredible father to five lucky children, and a doting husband, and later, a devoted grandfather.

To us at Hawaii International Child (now A Family Tree), Monroe was best known as the founder of our agency.

Monroe entered the world of inter-country adoption at a young age. His parents, Dr. George Woollard and Eleanor Woollard, adopted two daughters from Korea in the 1950s, and two more children domestically, adding to their family of Monroe and his four siblings. The Woollards became close friends of the Holts, the founders of Holt International Children’s Services. Following his instinct to make the world a better place, Monroe worked for Holt International Children’s Services in Korea and Bangladesh in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1975 he opened Hawaii International Child Placement and Family Services (HIC) in Hawi, on the Big Island of Hawai'i. For the next 15 years, Monroe was personally responsible for creating nearly 3,000 families bringing children from Korea into loving homes in Hawaii. In 1991 Monroe and HIC moved to Honolulu. Never one to back down from any challenge, Monroe embraced the often-challenging work of inter-country adoption, finding ways to soothe and support every family he helped. His optimism was infective, and he embodied the meaning of the agape love he espoused.

In 1996 Monroe left HIC to return to the Big Island of Hawai'i, where he continued to work on behalf of waiting children. He later moved to the mainland with his wife, Fran, to be closer to his children and grandchildren.

On December 17, 2016, exactly 74 years to the day after he’d entered this world, Monroe departed it. All of us at HIC who were lucky enough to know and love him, feel honored to have worked with and been changed by him. It is an understatement, though necessary to say that the world and thousands of lives were made immeasurably richer as a result of Monroe Woollard’s life.

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