For our last Holoholo, Kathy and I dropped in at the Pac Island Grill to listen to the Kaulele trio (Bernie Simeona, Peter Tabali, Kila Leapaga). Kaulele was fun to watch and listen to but what struck me most was how wonderful it is to be in the midst of a gathering of Hawaiian Islanders. Whether it’s at the Kona Kitchen or Bobby’s Hawaiian Style or the Kauai Family Restaurant, gatherings of Hawaiian Islanders are always full of warmth, friendliness, fun and good food. It was no different this evening at the Pac Island Grill (which is truly a family oriented place as I saw at least three “still in diapers” keikis there). And da people, auwe, such good fun people....from Papa Ray Bariquit with his awesome uke to beautiful young hula dancers Mele Halahuni and Jessica Cowles who were there with their Moms (Lori Halahuni, Sandi Cowles). Also there, the beautiful Lei Castellano and her hubby Ben (Lei was celebrating her 39th birthday...... again?? Nah, she must be over 40 but no can tell cause she look sooooo much younger! Hauoli la Hanau Lei!) Drop in artists included Aunties Maile Baker and Manu Lono who did a fantastic “Pua Lilia” duet.....oh yea, there were also some older wahine dancers including one Puanani Graham who was tagged “da Wild One” cause she is soooo fun kine kolohe when she dances......it was another grand night at the Pac Island Grill......go if you haven’t been.............
One of the most impressive “get-it-done” Hawaiian families I have met in Washington State has roots of the family tree planted in Kahului on the island of Maui where Tutu John Kalei Manuia and his wife Helen raised their grandson Gerna Manuia Benz in the old Hawaiian way. Gerna Benz (Baldwin HS ’61) retired after a twenty year US Army career and has since become one of the most successful entrepreneurs (in the mushroom import/export and fish canning businesses) in Washington State. Gerna is now involved in the Royal Order of Kamehameha I organization in Hawaii and his dream is to one day create a branch of that organization here in Washington State. I got involved with Gerna when he was the chief planner/organizer for the very successful 2008 19th Reunion of the Old Soldiers of Hawaii event in Tacoma. Now Gerna is helping his beautiful daughter Piilani Benz Raper who is branching out into the business world with her own company (Alliance West Insurance Inc, 7512 Bridgeport Way W. Lakewood, WA, tel 877-688-0574). I have no doubt that Piilani will become as successful as her Dad has been because the personality traits that stands out with both Piilani and Gerna are integrity (to deal with them is to deal with someone you can trust) and their priorities (their customers come first, as Piilani said to me “I’m there for them 24/7”). Planning and providing for the future has never been a strong suit for us Hawaiian Islanders but these very difficult financial times points out the need for all of us to have a solid insurance program in the event a worse case scenario happens. Piilani Benz Raper is a professional/fellow Hawaiian whom we can deal with and trust....call her.......won’t cost you a penny and may in fact earn you a few dollars down the road.......
Auwe .........it really is difficult to realize that this is the final Holoholo column I will write for the NW Hawaii Times newspaper! Kathy and I have had a glorious, marvelous journey traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest over the past five years! Especially memorable has been meeting and greeting thousands of you as we wandered from our home base in Seattle northward to Everett and Bellingham, WA and eastward to Boise, ID and to the Tri-Cities and southward to Vancouver, WA and Portland and Eugene in Oregon. What I will remember most is how all of you welcomed Kathy and I into your lives and into your hearts! You will never know how much we enjoyed being a part of your ohana, of participating in your pa`aina and hoikes.....we enjoyed so much sitting with you, talking and listening to you, singing and dancing with you, sharing food, fun and fellowship with you!
The NW Hawaii Times may not be here tomorrow but you and I will be! With equal parts of pride and humility, all of us Hawaiian Islanders here in the Pacific NW need to continue to perpetuate our unique island culture and lifestyle on this our adopted aina! We have come a long way since the arrival in the early 1800’s of the first Hawaiian Islanders and we have been able to earn a huge amount of admiration and respect from our “mainland” neighbors because we have been able to demonstrate that the culture of Aloha is one of warmth and compassion and love of family and friends! Much Mahalo to community leaders like Ricky Chang, Boy Chun Fook, Reidar Smith, Heather Minton, Ed Horie, Ben Baker and Deva Yamashiro, et al but it will take all of us getting involved in events like the Blue Bridge Bash and the Lokahi Ho`olauleas and the Hoike in the Park and the Live Aloha Festivals and the Wa`a Outrigger Regattas to assure that our culture will continue to thrive and grow! Please get involved!
Kathy and I want to send special Mahalos to: Eileen in Boise and Kerry in Seattle and Shannon/Cory/Malia in Portland......you’ll be in our hearts forever! To the rest of you............Mahalo so very, very much!
It really is time to Holoholo into the sunset......a hui hou e malama pono......Danny
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