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Anne and Theresa Apo at the Hawaii State Archives, holding a letter written by John T. Unea and a photograph of another family member, Hattie Unea, who they learned had also been sent to Kalaupapa.

“We were overjoyed and proud to learn about our kupuna’s life and continue to learn more about him and other members of our family that were exiled to Kalaupapa. . . .”

 

 

Anne and Theresa Apo, The family of
John T. Unea

Anne Mahealani Apo had long wanted to fill a missing blank in her family tree. Her great-grandfather, John Unea, had been sent to Kalaupapa before the turn of the 20th century, but that was where his story ended. No one in her family seemed to know what had happened after that.

Thanks to Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, the ending has turned into a beginning for Anne and her daughter, Theresa.

“The information provided by the ‘Ohana to us was astounding,” said Anne. “We learned tht our great-grandfather, John T. Unea, was the manager of the Kalaupapa Store and a teacher for the Kalaupapa School. He also recorded the first census of the Kalaupapa Settlement in 1900 where his name can be found on every page of the census, thus instilling in our hearts a confirmation of dignity.”

“We were overjoyed and proud to learn about our kupuna’s life and continue to learn more about him and other members of our family that were exiled to Kalaupapa. We are also indebted to the ‘Ohana for uniting us with the patients of Kalaupapa and their families, creating a bond that our ancestors once shared.”

Laura and CJ Tollefson, The family of
Ben Pea and Rose Nailau

When she was just 13 years old, Laura Tollefson began a correspondence that she would never forget: writing to her great-grandfather, Ben Pea, a much-loved kupuna at Kalaupapa. Laura eventually met her great-grandfather three times, twice on topside Molokai and once at Kalaupapa. Her great-grandmother, Molokai girl Rose Nailau, died before Laura was born.
Laura’s love of family was inherited by her 16-year-old daughter, CJ, who wanted to learn about the great-grandfather she had heard so much about. The two traveled to Molokai in the summer of 2008, hiked down the Kalaupapa trail and paid tribute to Ben Pea.
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Laura (right) and CJ Tollefson pause at the corner of the porch at Bay View Home where their ancestor, Ben Pea, used to sit every day, singing and tapping his fingers.

Photos by Valerie Monson


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