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Three’s the Charm
Diane Seo | Photo: Jyoti Mau | September 5, 2013
From philanthropy to world travels, one Honolulu matriarch and her daughters prove that joie de vivre runs in the family.
Few Honolulu families embody chic as well as Condesa-Azria Nora Meijide-Gentry and her two daughters, Candes Meijide Gentry and Corin Gentry-Balding. Carrying the name of one of Hawai‘i’s most legendary developers, this threesome cuts a glamorous swath in the city’s social scene. Along with the allure comes an infectious and ineffable zest for life.
The Meijide-Gentry women have collectively embraced the maxim of carpe diem. As such, they’ve sought out abundant experiences, traveling across the globe, winning beauty pageants, competing in trail runs and triathlons, furthering the family’s business interests, all the while founding scholarships and donating generously to organizations that resonate with them. “We live to the fullest, enjoying every bit and savoring our time,” Condesa says. “We value money and don’t waste it. But we spend it on things that are meaningful or offer experiences.”
When one delves into the family’s history, the quest for purposeful lives is clearly a family trait. Corin and Candes’ father, the late Tom Gentry—married to Condesa from 1973 to 1986—was one of Hawai‘i’s most prominent and successful real estate developers. His storied legacy includes developing 12,000 homes in the islands (plus 5,000 other homes around the country), along with 2 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space.
In his free time, Gentry was also a master of the seas. The business titan was a champion offshore powerboat racer, shattering world records, capturing world titles and earning the reputation as the fastest man in offshore racing. But while this penchant for speed underscores Gentry’s lively spirit, it also tragically cut his life short at the age of 67 in 1998. In 1994, while competing at the World Offshore Championship in Florida, his boat flipped over, trapping him underwater. He remained in a coma for almost four years before he passed away when Candes was 21 and Corin 24.
Nearly 20 years later, Candes and Corin attest that their father’s untimely passing profoundly affected them and made them re-examine how they should pursue their own lives. As a result, the sisters don’t take things for granted, nor do they steer away from opportunities out of fear or inertia. And they certainly cherish family bonds. Condesa and her daughters, all East O‘ahu residents, see each other daily, often with Candes’ 1-year-old son and Corin’s four young children in tow. “Our mother was always a strong influence in our lives, but especially after our father passed,” Candes says. “She raised us with the virtues of South American culture, which emphasizes family unity.”
As mothers go, it’s hard to find one as youthful, friendly and effervescent as Condesa, who has long been an alluring presence in Honolulu’s social circles, attending Hawaii International Film Festival galas, fashion events and charitable benefits. No doubt, she’s the ultimate jet-setter, traveling to Europe, South America and other faraway continents several times a year. A native of Argentina, the former model met Gentry at a yacht club in Buenos Aires and came to Hawai‘i in 1973 after a romantic, long-distance courtship. “I didn’t speak English, and he didn’t speak Spanish, but we found a way to communicate,” she says. Throughout their 13-year marriage, they traveled to races around the globe and relished in a shared passion for adventure. Even after they divorced in 1986, Condesa’s enthusiasm to explore and participate continued. “I love action,” she says. “I attend a lot of events, and I always want to be part of something new.” This joie de vivre has been obviously passed down to Candes and Corin, who remain equally engaged with their own interests and endeavors, all the while raising their own families.
Winner of the Miss Hawaii crown in 1999, Candes has served on the organization’s board of directors. Moreover, she now donates annually to the Miss Hawaii Organization’s scholarship program, awarding a performing arts scholarship to the talent winner. She also founded a scholarship for entrepreneurship at the University of Hawai‘i Shidler College of Business, where she earned her MBA, and has been a generous supporter, along with her mother, of the university’s music department. (Condesa also awards a scholarship for UH students interested in studying Spanish in Argentina.)
As one of the primary shareholders of Gentry Companies (along with Corin, as well as her father’s three children from a previous marriage), Candes has held a prominent role in the family business as president of Gentry Pacific Ltd., which sold the Gentry Pacific Design Center last year. A clear go-getter with an athletic streak, she’s also a competitive triathlete and runner. In 2010, she was the first kama‘āina female finisher of the Honolulu Marathon, and she’s currently training for November’s Xterra Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch.
Corin, meanwhile, has been likewise active in Hawai‘i’s pageant scene, having been crowned Mrs. Honolulu and Mrs. Oahu. A former professional dancer, she was a primary donor, along with her sister and mother, of the new dance pavilion at Punahou School, from where the two graduated.
Above all, it’s clear the Meijide-Gentry women have remained steadfast to their philosophy of never missing an opportunity. “I had two very vivacious parents who were very adventurous souls,” Candes says. “This is how we were raised and who we are.”