We (you and I, all of us) in the Hawaiian community need to try to give Benny Lagmay more than one day.....we need to try to give him a lifetime of days! This is a story about the fragility of life, about hope and faith but it is also a story about Aloha given to a community..............and returned, ten fold!
Benny Wayne Lagmay was born in Ewa Beach and grew up in Waianae, Oahu. Shortly after graduating from Waianae HS in 1977, one of Benny’s brothers had an extra airplane ticket for a flight to Kauai which he offered to Benny. Benny fell in love with Kauai. It was to be nineteen years later before Benny left Kauai. He was working at a MacDonald’s on Kauai when Benny first realized he loved to cook! His dream was to eventually have his own restaurant. It was on Kauai, while he was learning the cooking trade that he had another dream and that was to marry a pretty, funny, loving and so lovable hapa Haole/Hawaiian/ Chinese young lady he met while they were working at the Sheraton Hotel. Her name was Tonya Lei Hoskins. They were wed on Kauai in 1986. Tonya was born in California when her Dad, a military man, was stationed there but grew up on Kauai, graduating from Kapa`a HS.
In 1997, Benny took another airplane trip, this time with Tonya to visit Tonya’s Dad in the State of Washington and they loved the place! A move to Washington offered so many of the things Benny and Tonya wanted for their family (better job opportunities, affordable housing, better education for their children) so they moved here! The Lagmay Ohana is a truly beautiful, loving and warm family. Besides Tonya and Benny, there are the Lagmay youngsters: Jason Keoni (26), Jaylin Pualeilani (23), Benny Wayne Jr (20), Gabriel Ikaika (16), Michael Kamali`i (14) and Daniel Pohaku (13). Benny and Tonya operated the Cafe at the Blue Boy Golf Course in Monroe for several years. Their dream of having a restaurant of their own finally came true when they opened up “Lei’s Family Restaurant” in Duvall, WA in 2005!
Benny Lagmay has been a success at almost everything he has tried in life. Handsome, intelligent, athletic and always active, he was the personification of a strong, healthy Hawaiian man. It was in 2002, at age forty two, when Benny Lagmay first found out that there was a problem with his heart. Initially, it did not prevent Benny from living a full lifestyle but with the passing years, Benny’s heart has been growing larger and functioning less efficiently each day. Benny’s heart is now three times it’s normal size and performing at less than twenty-five percent of it’s capacity. Benny is a charismatic forty-eight year old man who may not be with us for his next few birthdays unless he gets a heart transplant.
It was in the aftermath of the severe December 2006 wind storm and heavy rains in the Western Washington area that Benny and Tonya were to ingrain themselves into the hearts of hundreds of people who live around the little town of Duvall, WA. The entire area lost electrical power and access into/out of Duvall was extremely limited. Benny and Tonya used their restaurant’s supplies and gas stoves to cook and serve well over a hundred FREE meals to the people of Duvall. This is an example of the generosity Benny and Tonya have provided in the communities where they’ve lived and worshiped and where their kids have gone to school. In a spirit of true Aloha, those communities have now rallied together to try to help Benny in his journey towards getting a heart transplant. On December 9, 2007 a “Benefit for Benny” Luau Fund Raiser at the Monroe Community Chapel Church raised over $25,000.00. Additional funds are being raised by Duvall area businesses who are donating a percentage of their business revenue for the December 15-31, 2007 period to the U.S. Bank’s Benny Lagmay Benefit Account. Donations from individuals are also still being received.
Most of us Hawaiians have a trait that can be a blessing....or a curse. We are such a proud people that asking for help does not come easily! Benny Lagmay is a proud man, reluctant to ask for assistance. But the reality is that a heart transplant operation will cost in excess of $250,000.00 and, unfortunately, costs of a heart transplant operation are not covered by regular insurance programs, so Benny and his family need every bit of financial assistance they can get to help pay for such an operation.
Benny Lagmay has demonstrated what true Aloha can be as he has sowed seeds of kindness, caring and giving among the many people he has touched in his personal and professional life.....and now in his time of need, those seeds have blossomed and the Aloha is being returned, ten fold!
But Benny is going to need more help and soon... Benny may be too proud to ask so I will ask for him: please help in whatever way you can! Donations can be made to the “Benny Lagmay Benefit Account” at any U.S. Bank.
Mahalo Benny Lagmay for being such a great representative of our Hawaiian culture! You da man!!!! We wish you well.............
Until next time, be kind to each other........me ke Aloha pumehana........Danny