Goodbye To Jonelle, Our Maui Photographer, Thank You For The Memories And RIP

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My love of Hawaii began 13 years ago when I posted and grabbed a deal paying just $87 for airfare and hotel. I’ve been to Hawaii some 9 times, including an entire month after I married Mimi, and can’t wait to go back again.

Some people love shopping for souvenirs when they travel. We have a different philosophy and love having a professional photo shoot.

We found Jonelle from Wailea Photography back in 2011 when we flew to Hawaii with 5 month old Rafi:

 

 

 

As Jonelle noted on her blog post from that photo shoot, the sunset that day was truly magical.

We loved how she captured the spirit and memories of the vacation and had her take our photos again when we went back in 2014 with 5 month old Talia and 2 year old Rafi:

 

It’s never easy to get kids to cooperate for a photo shoot, but Jonelle did an amazing job getting them in the mood for pictures.

 

By 2016 this was already our thing, but I was in for a surprise when I emailed Jonelle. She said that she was receiving tons of business from my original blog post about her and couldn’t wait to thank me in person. Cool!

Once again, the pictures, now with 4 year old Rafi and 2 year old Talia, were awesome:

 

Our most recent trip to Hawaii was earlier this year.

Part of the motivation for making the long trek to the islands was getting the family photo, now with our latest addition, 1 year old Maya.

Alas the weather in Maui on the trip just wouldn’t cooperate.

It rained and when it didn’t rain it was windy. We tried a photo shoot on our final night, but the strong winds made it impossible.

Jonelle felt so bad as she knew how much we wanted the photo shoot, but we told her we were flying to Kauai the next morning.

We were floored when she said that she’s been wanting to go to Kauai for a day trip for a while now and also wanted to build up a Kauai portfolio. She said it would be her pleasure to fly out to Kauai and take our photos. She refused to take an extra dime for her flight.

And so we got great family pictures on Shipwrecks beach in front of the Grand Hyatt:

 

 

You could see how passionate she was about her craft in her emails:

Mimi sent Jonelle a picture of the collage we made of the latest shoot, something we often do after a photo shoot:

 

Sadly, I just learned from this GoFundMe (disclaimer: Non-tznius pictures) that Jonelle battled with depression and it wound up claiming her life. Obviously that’s not something a professional discusses with their client, but I just wish I had the chance to say something that may have changed that outcome.

The GoFundMe was set up to help her daughter Ruby, who is Rafi’s age. She would speak lovingly of her at every photo shoot.

It says in Koheles that he who lives should take it to heart. I hope that if anyone reading this is going through turmoil in their own life that they speak to a professional as quickly as possible before making a decision that can’t be undone.

And so, farewell Jonelle and rest in peace. We will certainly miss you and your bright spirit. Your incredible work will be found on the walls of our home for years to come.

 

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54 Comments On "Goodbye To Jonelle, Our Maui Photographer, Thank You For The Memories And RIP"

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Dr Moose

Wow. I was just in Maui and was debating about using her.

Yitz Weiss

Beautiful, thanks for sharing.

Joe

You’re very kind. This is especially needed in the orthodox community where we are held to certain standards and expectations and where mental illness is still unfortunately stigmatized. I wish all the best

Kbzsk

So sad reading this story. Beautiful pics of a beautiful family…she was talented. RIP.

CS1

These are really amazing photos.
So much talent.

The fact that you had her smiling all these years is extra special.

M

Breaks my heart to think of a young girl who is left without her mother

myi

Sorry to hear, but wow really incredible pictures.
Your putting SomethingFishy at task. 😉

David

Who will you use next time,Dan?

reader

stupid Q at this time

Harley Kesselman

That’s your question? Unreal.

Helen

Seriously???

Marc

The day JFK was killed, a reporter asked Barry Goldwater how this would affect the 1964 election. Goldwater’s response was, “how can you ask a question like that at a time like this?”

Helen

Deeply saddened to hear this news :(. Her daughter is way too young to have to have lost her mother at that age. A photographer can be replaced (even if by one not as good), but a mother is irreplaceable.

Ari

So sad.

Zack

This is so sad. Thanks for sharing

Can relate..

So saddened to hear this. Went through the experience of losing someone very close to my family the same way. No words..
Such a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to anyone touched by this.
Especially her child. ❤️

Sarah

So sad to hear that such amazing talent was lost due to depression ?? She made everyone happy just seeing her beautiful work and now we’re baffled as to why??

Eli

I don’t know her but sounds heart wrenching, thank you Dan for not only giving us awesome deals but for showing us into your life as well. A special Thanks for the go fund me disclaimer. I hope her daughter finds the strength to recover.

Sk

It was worth the entire Dansdeals if this post helps one individual struggling. Thank you for posting!

Baruch

Agreed 100%

Davidthebest

You brought her business from your post when she was alive, and (unfortunately) you bring now people to donate on the gofundme page for her daughter. Since you posted this jewish names are coming up on the page as they donated.
קידוש השם

Dr. Zalman

Thank You Dan for posting! Truly heartbreaking. I am a psychologist in Los Angeles working in the area of risk management and unfortunately see this all too often both in the Jewish community and out. There are many helpful resources out there to help someone in time of need. One really great one is the Suicide hotline tel: 1-800-273-8255. It is available 24/7.

Rachel

What a beautiful Kiddush Hashem…. What a horrible loss .

MG

It is so sad that depression is still so misunderstood. While we still do not know exactly what causes depression, it is a disease like other illnesses. There are many factors that can be involved such as biological differences, brain chemistry, hormones, and inherited traits. Thank you for your beautiful post. If it encourages even one person to get help, you have made a difference.

Leah Brown

I am really proud to call you family. You have a very special heart, like the family you come from. Mimi too!! I’m so sorry for your loss and hope the pictures bring you joy and good memories of your times with Jonelle. Thank you for speaking out about depression. More people in the Orthodox community need to use their influence and audience to get the message out there about it! From our schools to our Shidduch system, mental illness stigma is so damaging!

Joe1234

Great post! Life is actually the best “deal”!!

Abey

+100

Jay

So how do we help someone depressed ? They don’t want help and reject every suggestion – appreciate good suggestions

Annie

Find someone in your community who is open and honest about their experience. They understand perfectly what you are going through. We – those who have gone through – know you can get your lives back. The children will find shidduchim because you have gotten better. When you find what works do not do or take less of it especially medication. If you would not get off any other prescription do not make this the exception. What you are taking are not drugs. It is medicine created to help you.

Moe

Heres the Gofundme description:

On July 26, 2019, Jonelle Littleton became one of the best angels ever. Leaving behind one the most amazing little girl in the world, Ruby Rain Littleton-Fleck. No doubt she will be forever present and remembered for all of her best qualities. She had an amazing sense of humor, a passion for life, keeping it real and was never afraid to call people out. She had a way of making people laugh as it was her job as a very talented photographer here on Maui.

Jonelle battled with depression and anxiety, which sadly, took her life. We do not want this to define her or her death. We will always remember her as the beautiful, funny, caring and amazing mom she was. There are so many times she was so generous to homeless people and going out of her way to do nice things to people in need. She was the Girl Scout troop leader for Ruby’s troop and she instilled some really great traits in Ruby about caring and giving that have already shown. Ruby is passionate about raising money for the Maui Humane Society, as she often hosts fruit and lemonade stands using the proceeds to buys things to donate to the shelter. You can often find her putting together care packages for the homeless and will have someone drive her around until she spots someone to give it to.

The funds we are raising are going to help fund mortuary costs and a celebration of life here on Maui to honor Jonelle. It is important to us to keep Jonelle’s family in Ruby’s life and this will also help with travel costs to get Ruby to visit her moms family in Texas and New York throughout her life. This will also help Jonelle’s mom travel to Maui to visit Ruby.

Jonelle was an absolutely amazing mom, and after giving birth to Ruby she worked two jobs a lot of the time to make sure Ruby had the best life possible. One of Jonelle’s biggest dreams, concerns, and motivation for working so hard was to leave Ruby with something that could help get her on her feet and leave something in her legacy, so the remaining funds will be placed in a trust for Ruby when she becomes a mature adult. She always expressed how important this was for her, so this will ensure that she has something to not only remember how much her mom was loved but how much her mom loved her as her. We are just so saddened it has to come as the price of her mom’s life.

We deeply appreciate you anything you can fund towards this very important dream and cause. Jonelle would be so delighted in seeing all the love put into this. It will help her in her journey to be in a much happier place. She will be forever in our hearts.

We love you Jonelle. So, so much.

To donate:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/JonelleandRuby/donate

GYE

Thanks for posting a link that avoids tsnius issues.

E

GYE, so if concerned perhaps have your wife/mother/sister/daughter click on the link with your CC information and your desired amount for donation?

JM

Maybe Dan should put this one further up to encourage people to donate within the bounds of not being worried about photos?

daniel drabkin

Dan, Maybe your greatest post of all time. is there a better deal in life than life itself? May Jonelle’s memory be a blessing. May the merit of the dozens of people who read this and get help be paid to he in the next world.

Rose

Jonelle took amazing photos of me and my husband and was so awesome to work with last year at a sunset photo shoot. No doubt this one hour on the beach taking pictures with her was one of the highlights of our Maui vacation (and my husband hates taking pictures so that’s saying something!).
I was sadden to hear the news when I went on to Instagram after Shabbos and saw the GoFund me post. Now when I walk through my house and see those stunning pictures on my wall I think about how much fun that hour really was and I wish I knew so I could have possibly done even one small thing to help her. She was such a sweet woman and will surely be missed by all who knew her.

tyh

dan you are a light unto the nations !

Sandi

This link contains some resources (Mostly NY based). Most importantly: Say Something! Reach Out! You ARE NOT ALONE. This has affected too many people in our own communities. Please end the stigma.

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/depression-and-suicide-resources/

JB

Wow, this is super sad!! Jonelle was a young, beautiful, kind, dedicated and talented mom, what a tragedy! 🙁
She will be missed by her loved ones and many more.
(I just donated to help her young daughter)
RIP

LS

Thank you for the link and giving readers the opportunity to help out. I don’t know this person, but being a mother to two small children, it just breaks my heart.

M S

I am suffering from anxiety and depression. Anyone know an english speaking support group i can join. I just started with a therapist but would love to hear from ppl who suffered and survived.

Sandi

Many available. Please back channel with general location and I will try to help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

drsandi@kc.rr.com

Anonymous

I have been through depression, wanting to commit suicide, and an addiction.
I worked and still work hard through it, I took medication and my depression is gone, I no longer want to commit suicide my life is so valuable and amazing and I love myself for who I am and these days it scares me that this was even a thought and this is even when I have hard days and my is not going the way I want it to.
and as for the addiction I’ve been sober now for a while, life is really amazing it has so many amazing stuff to offer, when we depressed it’s impossible to feel but it’s worth every second going through the work getting to love life, enjoy it, and even wait for the next day to come, never give up no matter how hard it is the hope and actual results are around the corner just reach out.
I highly recommend Relief 718-431-9501 they were amazing and helped me find a good therapist.

M S

I’ve been in touch with relief and started therapy about a month ago. I started medication about two weeks ago and definitely feel much better. My question is how long does it take to get out of this?? Ive always been happy and relaxed. This is all very new and scary for me.

Anonymous

It really depends on every person, I would definitely ask your therapist and see what he or she thinks.
As for it being scary it definitely is, but I learnt a lot from this experience specifically that I appreciate my life so much more now that I’ve worked so hard on getting back on track and having the good life that I have, there’s so many great stuff around the corner waiting to happen.

M S

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.

menachem

@dan Beautifully written! My suggestion based on reading some of the comments, maybe compile list of ppl/org/groups that help in this field and post it under the article above or possibly a new post?
You have the opportunity now to help many people like her, who are even voicing their pain here, before it’s too late!

Shimino1

Donated!
If anyone is reading this and going through a hard time please remember and focus on the people who love you!
Reach out and you will find help!

Susa blasko

What a beautiful testimony by you and your family. Your words are very kind and will help everyone get through this tragedy! You have a beautiful family, the photos capture that beautifully.! Thank you

Margaret Littleton

Thank you so much for sharing! Jonelle is my niece. Your article brought tears to my eyes and pride in my heart.

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