Governor Abercrombie
      Salutes
         Bernard Punikai‘a
When Governor Neil Abercrombie was a Congressman, he attended a presentation in August, 2007, by Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa on the Kalaupapa Memorial where he met with old friend Bernard Punikai‘a, Honorary Chairman of the Board of the ‘Ohana, and Kuulei Bell, first President of the ‘Ohana. Photo by Valerie Monson

Bernard Punikai‘a, who proposed establishing Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa and served as Honorary Chairman of the Board, had friends from every walk of life. One of his closest friends was Neil Abercrombie, their bond cemented during the struggle to save Hale Mohalu. Abercrombie, then a State Legislator, marched alongside Bernard and other Kalaupapa residents and supporters during rallies at the State Capitol where he echoed their cries for justice.
Abercrombie was later elected to Congress, but he never forgot Bernard.
When the two of them would attend the same event, Abercrombie often drove Bernard home in his famous checkered cab. Just before Bernard died in early 2009, Abercrombie and his wife, Nancie Caraway, spent time with him at Leahi Hospital.
When Abercrombie was elected as Hawaii’s next Governor, he delivered an acceptance speech where he singled out a few important people who had changed his life.
Bernard Punikai‘a was one of those saluted.
“We’re thinking of Bernard Punikai‘a,” announced Abercrombie. “The Catholic Church has its newest Saint in Saint Damien, but we had a Saint who walked among us and his name was Bernard Punikai‘a from Kalaupapa.”
Mahalo, Governor Abercrombie, for reminding all of Hawaii about the greatness of your friend, Bernard Punikai‘a.

New ‘Ohana Board Members

Mark and Char both had family at Kalaupapa. Mark is the grand-nephew of Kuulei Bell, the first President of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa. Shortly before her death in 2009, Mark drove Kuulei around the peninsula so she could point important places that she wanted him to know about. She also had him stop at the site of the former Baldwin Boys Home and told him this was where she wanted the Kalaupapa Memorial located.

Mark Ellis, grand-nephew of Kuulei Bell

 

“I think my aunt would have loved to have seen two things happen while she was still living: Damien being made a Saint and the Kalaupapa Memorial,” said Mark, who works at Kamehameha Schools and lives with his family in Honolulu.
Char is the great-granddaughter of David Kamahana, the Kalaupapa businessman who knew Father Damien.

Char was instrumental in getting much-needed repairs done to the house where her kupuna once lived. Char is determined that the Kamahana family be remembered.
“Thanks to the ‘Ohana, the families are always going to have a voice here, after us it will be our kids who will speak up for our ancestors,” she said.

Char Woodward, great-granddaughter of David Kamahana, shares her mana‘o at the 2010 annual meeting of the ‘Ohana. Photos by Wayne Levin

Char is a systems analyst who lives in Pearl City with her husband, Sol.
With the addition of Char and Mark, the ‘Ohana Board of Directors now is made up of four Kalaupapa kupuna, six family members and three longtime friends. Eight of the 13 Directors are Native Hawaiians.
Welcome aboard, Mark and Char!

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