Small Talk

Mackey's Monarchs

August 24th, 2009

[youtube MvuiWODeb40]


There’s a Native American legend that says if you whisper your wishes to a butterfly, then set it free, it will fly to the heavens with your wish. If that’s true, there are thousands of wishes waiting to be fulfilled for Dancetta Feary. She’s a Kaneohe woman who has been raising butterflies for five years.

“I just wanted to have butterflies in my yard. I always thought it was really beautiful,” she told me one afternoon while sitting in her beautiful, breezy butterfly garden. And at a particularly stressful time in her life, she finally decided to go for it.

For six years, Dancetta weathered trauma after trauma, starting with the highly publicized 1999 suicide of her brother Mackey.

Baby Mac

Baby Mac, courtesy Dancetta Feary

Maybe you recognize the name? Mackey Feary, lead singer of the popular island band Kalapana. “He really was the only baby I ever had. He was my baby brother. I never had children of my own,” reflects Dancetta.

Mackey Feary, courtesy Dancetta Feary

Mackey Feary, courtesy Dancetta Feary

After that, marriage of 20 years ended, her family was torn asunder by six years worth of lawsuits, and then her father died. “It was tough, very challenging. I would have used the word depressing then, but I see things through wider eyes now and I see everything is here for a reason, and everything is good,” she philosophizes.

Courtesy Dancetta Feary

Courtesy Dancetta Feary

And so those butterflies entered the picture. First a few, then a few more, and before she knew it, she had hundreds. They dominate her carport in large and small cages. On a quiet night, you can even hear the caterpillars munching away steadily, and the butterflies’ wings flapping at the cage ceiling, reaching towards freedom.

Dancetta spends four hours a day caring for her pets. Her day starts at 6 a.m. with feeding the butterflies, the dogs, and maybe, if she’s diligent, herself. She works as a Realtor, so the next daypart is dedicated to selling real estate. When she gets home, it’s more pet care, and then more real estate until midnight.

What compels her to raise these gentle winged creatures? “They teach me that there’s so much beauty in life,” she explains. “From the day they're born, the mother lays them on a leaf and that's it. They've really taught me you can be independent and strong and be by yourself.”


Some of the butterflies she raises are a rare, white variety. She credits UH Manoa professor John Stimson, PhD, with helping her figure out how to breed them. “He said if the orange males were of the same brood as the females, then their offspring would produce some whites (one out of every four), being a recessive gene. Over 700 butterflies later, this next generation was all oranges. So, fingers crossed, I tried again.”

Courtesy Dancetta Feary

Courtesy Dancetta Feary

Finally, in 2007, her first batch of whites hatched on August 13– Mackey’s birthday. “This is the tenth anniversary of Mackey's passing, so a special year for me,” adds Dancetta.
She nicknames all whites Mackey’s Monarchs. “It’s a gift from him,” she smiles. Is he telling you something, I ask? “I’m sure he’s here,” replies Dancetta. “The veil between life and death is so thin.”

On the first Saturday of each month, by appointment, Dancetta holds public tours of her butterfly farm. She hopes it’ll encourage more people to appreciate these beautiful insects, and to grow more butterfly plant-food in their yards. It’s her way of honoring Mackey’s memory.

Courtesy Dancetta Feary

Courtesy Dancetta Feary

Christmas 1982, courtesy Dancetta Feary

Christmas 1982, courtesy Dancetta Feary

Is she finally happy? She smiles. “I’m still metamorphisizing,” she laughs. “All of life is change.”

Christmas 1973, courtesy Dancetta Feary

Christmas 1973, courtesy Dancetta Feary

Dancetta Feary
Realtor Associate
Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties
Pali Palms Plaza, Suite C-215
970 Kalaheo Avenue
Kailua, HI 96734
Cell: (808) 723-0630
E-Fax: (808) 628-6081

12 Responses to “Mackey's Monarchs”

  1. Rosette:


  2. hemajang:

    You bring up some interesting posts, nice story on Mackey Feary's sister. Mackey was such an important person in her life. I have to find that Mackey Feary Band album, his first one. I worked on his cover, think it's in my house somewhere.

  3. Maxcat:

    Nice story Diane. Thanks for bringing it to us.

  4. Diane Ako:

    Thanks, all. I also shot a long story on this and will air that on the morning show in the next week or so, as soon as we get it edited. My photog and I gave about 15-20 hours of our free time to shoot this as a labor of love. We were just really moved by her story. I don't know the time or date of the airing but just keep tuning in.

  5. NEO:

    Thanks for this Diane! Really appreciate the feel good journalism that you're puttin' out there! :o)


  6. Dancetta:

    Mahalo, Diane, for spreading the word about the plight of our endangered monarchs. Milkweed (crown flowers) are their caterpillars' only food source and without it, all our monarchs will perish, I encourage everyone to grow some in their yard and I will give them a free plant. First Saturday is this coming September 5th at 10:00 am and butterfly lovers are invited to my place to learn more about these rare and beautiful creatures. Write me at for more info. Mahalo Diane for all that you do and are!


    Mahalo plenty Diane for supporting the restoration of our precious pulelehua. I visit Dancetta and her dedication is unending. Her story needs to be told, over and over. Maybe Mackey's helping us from the other side(?) What a blessed project for the 'aina.
    Crown Flowers Rule!!!

  8. Fred G:

    Thank you Dianne and Dancetta. This is such a great story. Mackey's voice was simply the best and will always live on.

  9. Marsha Fithian:


    Mahalo for this great art piece. Dancetta and I were classmates at Kalani and I was with her when she lost her brother Macky. Her dedication to these BEAUTIFUL WHITE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES gives me chicken skin when I look at the video almost everyday. I know the pain that Dancetta has gone through and to see who she is today is such an honor for me. I am in education and someday I would love to have beautiful white monarch butterflies in my yard just like I had the beautiful orange butterfly in keahou bay in kona hawaii when I grew up there in the early 50's. May Mackys spirit always live on. Give Dancetta the strength to continue on with her great project. All The Best Dancetta. Love and aloha Marsha Fithian

  10. hhjyr:


    fine, your blog design is actually nice, I'm hunting for any new template for my own web site, I like yours, now I am going to go seek the very same design!...

  11. Dennis:

    I just saw Kalapana here in So. Cal last night... I am from Guam and could not get Mackey out of my mind since I grew up with his music. Thank you very much for putting this site up and writing such a beautiful story. Dancetta is a very strong lady for what she's been through.. I wish her well!

  12. Phil Ingalls:

    I was searching to see if I could find a Honolulu Advertiser "Letter to the Editor" I had written those many years ago and shortly after Mackey's passing. I was deeply upset at the harsh way in which the Judiciary chose to deal with Mackey's challenges and in some way, right or wrong, I placed some blame on the Judge.

    I had seen Mackey only a few weeks before his death. He was in good spirits and seemed happy. Mind you, I wasn’t seeing his plight through rose-colored lenses and it wasn’t his first go-round either. Still, he was bright-eyed and happy when I last saw him. Macky’s death moved me so deeply that I wrote scathing letters to the Judge in his case and for good measure, a Letter to the Editor for The Honolulu Advertiser.

    I was living in Denver and was doing some grocery shopping at an Albert’s or similar grocery store when to my complete amazement, out of the blue and over the stores’ Muzak system comes Mackey. I think the song was Nightbird. There I was in the grocery store with tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. As I write now, I still have to wipe away tears.

    I hope to meet Dancetta one day and see her beautiful labor of love. If Mackey's Monarchs are the result of her chanelling grief, then she has indeed done well and I'd like to believe that Mackey had a hand in it also. Thank you for this heartwarming and uplifting story.

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