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Danny Kaopuiki's

Kama`aina Profile

September 2008

Bernie Simeona

 

Semper Fi.....the Few.....the Proud.......the Marines! He is one of them........

Kanaka Maoli...........Native Hawaiian...............He is also one of them.....

You may have known him as a fellow Marine at Camp Pendleton or at Camp Shwab on Okinawa....Or, if you ever “rode the waves” aboard one of the Aikane catamarans that cruised the waters of Waikiki in the 1970’s, you probably saw and heard him as he was one of the entertainers on the catamarans. Maybe you saw him as one of the guys paddling the outrigger canoe in the opening scenes of that famous “Hawaii Five-0” television show? Maybe you are one of the hundreds of hula dancers who, through the years, have danced to music that he and his various music partners have played? More recently, you may have been one of the horde of fans watching and listening to him perform at places like the Kona Kitchen Restaurant in Seattle with the Bradda Dem trio.

Handsome...talented....great musician....awesome singer....champion golfer....hot dog surfer....master canoe paddler! He is all of that....but it is also his genuine niceness, his warmth, his humor and friendliness that have helped endear him to thousands here in the Pacific Northwest!

The GTE Connection 1985-1993. Bernie Simeona is front row, third from left.

Bernard “Bernie” Henry Kelekolio Simeona was the third youngest of Lillian Pepe`e and Abraham Simeona’s nine children. Born into a love-rich but cash-poor family, Bernie was eleven years old when he, his brother Moses and sister Sarah were sent to live in the Salvation Army Home for Children in Manoa Valley on Oahu. Bernie and Moses later moved to another Children’s Home in Kaimuki where he remained until 1962 when he joined, at age nineteen, the United States Marine Corps. A few years later, Bernie Simeona was in the jungles of Vietnam, a U.S. Marine Tactical Air Control Forward Observer directing U.S. aircraft attacks on enemy forces. Forward Observers like Bernie were always at the very front of friendly troop positions, making them extremely vulnerable to enemy fire! To relax from the anxieties of war, Bernie spent his free time playing his guitar and singing for his Marine comrades as well as for local area Vietnamese villagers. Ironically, the U.S. military Stars & Stripes newspaper printed a photo of Bernie entertaining some villagers that got national exposure and was the only way some of Bernie’s friends and family found out that he was in Vietnam. Sergeant Bernard Simeona was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966!

Music has been the foundation upon which Bernie Simeona has built his life! At age 12, he taught himself to play the guitar and at age 13, he had progressed to such a high level of excellence that he and a group of his teenage friends were the “warm up” act for a Show of Stars concert at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium which featured Gospel Singer Mahalia Jackson and Country Western star Conway Twitty! Through the years, Bernie has played for groups like “Cliff and the Countrymen”, “The Hawaiian Express”, the “GTE Connection”, “Easy Feelin’” and most recently, “Bradda Dem”. His repertoire of music has ranged from rock and roll to hard rock to country western to his favorite contemporary and traditionalHawaiian music.

What really sets Bernie Simeona apart from others is the passion with which he does things. Bernie loves to entertain audiences with his singing/ukulele and bass playing but what he loves most is teaching others. He loves taking inexperienced musicians and dancers and helping develop their raw talents. These days you may find him playing music for that group of hula dancers in Bothell, WA who didn’t have live music to practice to or perform with until Bernie showed up.....or teaching some of the beginner musicians at kanikapilas at Ante Nani’s in Bothell or Seattle’s Kona Kitchen the intricacies of traditional Hawaiian music. There also are the times, when he is not teaching, that he is helping others by donating his talents for fund raisers like the ones he did for the guy from Kauai who needs a heart transplant.

While music is his passion, Bernie’s “work-to-pay-the-bills” profession was in the telecommunications field where he excelled for over thirty years as a telephone lineman, station installer and cable splicer for Hawaiian Telephone, GTE and Verizon.

Bernie and his lovely wife Louise live in Mukilteo, WA. They have four sons ( Kevin, Cal and Kenny Smith and Bernard Kaleialoha Simeona Jr) and three mo`opuna (Melia, Kanoa and Eddie)

Bernie Simeona is truly one of those “self made” men. His life journey from those days in the Salvation Army Home in Manoa to where he is today has not always been easy. But this man, who virtually came from nowhere and started with nothing, has evolved, through perseverance and personal effort, into the multi-talented, personable and very successful man you meet today!

Some of his fans and friends have joshingly tagged him “Da Great One” because of his talents and accomplishments but when you consider where he came from and what he has done and where he is today, “Da Great One” title fits Bernie Simeona very, very well!

Mahalo Bernie Simeona..................you da Man!!!!!!

Until next time, be kind to each other..........me ke Aloha pumehana.........Danny

 

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