“Running for Travis” at the 2020 Surf City Marathon

By Don Norcorss 


HONOLULU – The news alert flashed across Melissa Lau’s cellphone.

 Three pedestrians killed by driver. Several injured.

 And immediately Lau’s heart sank. Her husband, Dr. Travis Lau, a renowned anesthesiologist, was jogging near the scene of the crime. Was he hit? Was he dead? No, no, no. Not Travis.

 But Travis wasn’t answering his cellphone, wasn’t responding to her texts. She drove to emergency rooms, hoping, praying that he was alive. About midnight, Melissa fielded a call from the medical examiner’s office. Travis, identified by his fingerprints, had been killed.

 “Total disbelief,” Melissa said of her reaction. “I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe they got the wrong person.”

 Dr. Travis Lau was killed on Jan. 28, 2019 in Honolulu. A dedicated runner who had completed multiple marathons, including Boston, Lau was training for the Surf City Marathon. That fatal night, he was logging one of his final workouts before the marathon.

 Among the 17,000 entrants in the 2020 Surf City Marathon was a group of participants with shirts that read “Running for Travis.”Melissa Lau was among them, along with 60 others from Hawaii, plus two from Boston who participated in the event to honor Travis’ memory. 

 The driver who caused the accident was impaired. A bottle of vodka was found in his truck. Lau wanted to participate in the race for multiple reasons. To raise awareness about drunk driving and to keep her husband’s memory alive.

 “I see myself now as an extension of him,” said Melissa. “I’ve been so angry for a full year. I need to channel my energy and anger into something productive so this doesn’t happen to other people.”

 Travis and Melissa were introduced by friends. They both worked in the medical field, Travis as an anesthesiologist who specialized in open-heart surgery, Melissa as a registered nurse.

 Melissa loved, admired and respected her husband.

 “My husband was the most disciplined person I ever met,” she said. “He would work long cases, long surgeries and even if he had to go out late in the evening he would still make it a point to go out running. He was extremely dedicated.”

Melissa says that Travis was brilliant and funny.

“Not necessarily funny in a ha-ha, telling jokes kind of way,” said Melissa. “You know ‘The Big Bang Theory?’ He was like Sheldon Cooper. He was very regimented about certain things, very picky. 

“He was easily annoyed, not something you’d be angry about. It was cute. It was funny. That was just Travis.”

Melissa remembers that Travis liked his desk to be neatly organized. A place for everything and everything in its place. Items sitting at 90-degree angles. He liked the bed to be made a certain way. He dressed the same way every day. Lululemon khaki slacks and golf polo shirts.

When he was marathon training he’d stop eating before he was full.

“He wouldn’t indulge,” said Melissa. “He wouldn’t allow himself to eat too much. He wanted to lose weight.”

Melissa used to be an avid runner. Now she exercises at a gym.

“Ever since this happened I stopped running (outside),” she said. “I lost faith in running on the roads.”

Asked if there was anything else she’d want people to know about Travis, Melissa said, “He gave a damn. There’s no other way to put it. He gave a damn. He cared. He wasn’t very verbally expressive. He expressed his care through his actions.”

Melissa also wanted to extend her appreciation to organizers of the Surf City Marathon.

 “They’re opening their hearts to us with aloha,” she said. “I’m excited that they’re excited to have us”