Phyllis McOmber fights cancer with the same zeal she initiates community projects — fearlessly. Through it all, the 74-year-old organ player at the Lāna‘i Baptist Church says her faith in God sustains her. McOmber has been at the forefront of numerous Lāna‘i initiatives from building a preschool to opening a new health care center. She’s served on the Maui County Urban Design Review Board and the Lāna‘i Art Program board of directors. Her most recent project as an advisor to the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association netted $10,000 for the annual Lāna‘i Charity Walk.
A Florida native, McOmber moved in the 1960s to Lāna‘i where she worked as a college educator and created continuing education and university extension programs on the island. She founded the Lāna‘i Community Health Center, a project 10 years in the making. A temporary clinic site currently serves as many 900 patients a year, many of whom are uninsured. There are plans to build a permanent facility, but the project still has to raise another $5 million to go forward. McOmber said her volunteer efforts sprang from a motivation to support the community she lives in. “No matter how much time it takes, it’s been twice worth it,” she said. “Basically this is my home and I want to do everything I can for my home.” She said she appreciates recognition, but notes that many others join her in carrying out community projects. “Everything I’ve done, I haven’t done by myself,” she said. “Everything has really been supported by community needs and I’m proud of that.”
A survivor of breast and colon cancer, McOmber was being treated for bone cancer this year. She was diagnosed with brain cancer in early May. The day after returning home from radiation treatment on Oahu, McOmber said she felt weak but her spirits remained strong. “I don’t feel bad. I don’t hurt. … I have my faith,” she said in a phone interview. She vowed not to let cancer stop her from continuing to contribute at home. “I hope it doesn’t get me down. I don’t plan on it.”