Tragedy struck on a trip to Hawaii that was meant to be an early Christmas present from former US diplomat George Novinger to his wife, Gladys. The prominent San Diego couple were swept away Saturday as they tried to cross the Wailuku River above Rainbow Falls in a state park on Hawaii's Big Island, NBC San Diego reports. Gladys Novinger, 62, was found unconscious in a pool below the 80-foot waterfall and died in a local hospital. Her 61-year-old husband is still missing. Rescuers have been searching from the air, but the ground search has been repeatedly delayed by heavy rain and flash-flood conditions, FOX 5 reports.
George Novinger recently retired from the Foreign Service, where he served in countries including Japan, Paraguay, and Syria before becoming the State Department's director of foreign missions in the Southwest. Gladys Novinger served as San Diego's honorary Peruvian consul. The couple, who were active in numerous community projects, owned San Diego's Vineyard Hacienda. Gladys Novinger's son, Joseph Harmes III, says he was with the couple when they were swept away. "They were the best of the best. It is beyond tragic. They are missed deeply," he tells the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I will always carry them in my heart. And I dedicate my life to their legacy." (Read more Hawaii stories.)