By Leland Kim
KAPOLEI (KHNL) - A woman who became Hawaii's symbol for the bone marrow donor program has passed away. Sharnell Onaga died Tuesday. She was battling leukemia.
KHNL News 8 has been following her journey since last year when she became one of our first "Talk Story" profiles. Sharnell's family is naturally still in shock, still mourning her death. But they say they want to celebrate her life, and the cause she fought for: bone marrow registry.
Sharnell captivated everyone she met with her warmth and her spirit. We learned about her story when she sat down with our Angela Keen and talked about her fight with leukemia. Those who knew her say she was a selfless person.
"She lived life not just for herself, but a very genuine person from the heart that wanted to help others as well," said Marilyn Moura, Sharnell's mother.
During bone marrow drives, Sharnell encouraged people to sign up, not just to help her, but others like her. Sharnell even discouraged one woman who would only sign up to help her. Sharnell told the woman, "Unless you want to help everybody, I don't want you to sign up just to help me."
"I was very impressed that she said something like that," said Roy Yonashiro, spokesperson for the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Program. "That's the kind of person she is and the whole family was like that."
Sharnell lost her battle with leukemia Tuesday. The day after, her mom misses her daughter's special qualities.
"Her love and kindness, and her in general," said Moura. "She was very special."
Marilyn says Sharnell would want folks to continue supporting the bone marrow program.
"People to get out there and donate platelets and blood and core blood especially, so they can help others as well," said Moura.
"That was her whole philosophy on life," said Yonashiro. "That's what I'll always remember and that what I'll keep in my heart."
Not only a daughter, but a best friend.
"Absolutely," said Moura. "She still is. Absolutely."
Sharnell's husband Cliff said, in their last moments together, she wanted to make sure their three daughters know how much their mom loves them.
To find out how you can become a bone marrow donor, click on the link on this page.