Solomon Kalapawai Mahoe, shown here as a young man, was an "ambassador of good will." Photo courtesy Mahoe family
'Uncle Solo,' a son of Hawai'i, laid to rest in ocean off Kailua
Solomon Kalapawai Mahoe Jr., a son of the Hawai'i of bygone days, left a small bit of himself in many people, some of whom are scattered to the four corners of the globe.
"He had the capacity for being thrilled with all that was going on around him," his daughter Nani Mahoe said. "His friends probably number in the thousands."
However, those who gathered at his Kailua family home Saturday to bid him a fond farewell were an intimate group by Hawaiian standards, only about 150 or so. Even during the planning phase, weeks in advance, his daughter knew it would be an emotional occasion.
"Hawaiians have a way of singing and dancing and laughing and crying, a catharsis," she said.
Yesterday, in a private family observance, the tapa-decorated urn containing his ashes was sunk in the sea off Kailua Bay that he loved as much as his life on land. About 30 people took part in that ceremony, Nani Mahoe said.
The sense of loss, she said, is profound for those who knew him. Even for those who didn't, the Sept. 25 death of "Uncle Solo" should be noted, his daughter said, because he represented a way of life that is ebbing rapidly.
"My father was like an ambassador of good will," Nani Mahoe said. "He took his culture with him and was very engaging. He had that personality so that people were drawn to him."
The official records showed Solo Mahoe to have been 90, she said, but he often claimed to be a year older than that. In any case, he was his parents' first-born child and, by tradition, was given to his grandparents to raise.
So the customs he learned, the outlook on life, were far older than his years.
He was a native speaker of Hawaiian, Nani Mahoe said, and grew up in Maunawili, then a mix of rice fields, banana groves and papaya trees.
"Daddy's early years in Hawai'i were idyllic," she said. "He says it was so quiet that he could hear his tutu's whistle to call him home.
"Daddy rode his horse everywhere, down to the beach, up over the Pali to town ... everything moved at its own natural pace."
Through his life he worked as a Waikiki lifeguard, raised pigs, owned a lunch wagon with his wife, was a civilian public works employee during World War II and a city roadwork foreman thereafter.
If such activities constituted his livelihood, fishing was his life. At a Kailua town reunion almost two decades ago, he recalled learning to fish with his grandfather, setting out in a boat on Kawainui Marsh, which in those days was an open lake.
Solo's middle name refers to the land, near the beachside shop of the same name, owned by the Mahoe clan for many years. He knew of countless spots for fish, lobster and octopus, Nani Mahoe said.
"We are told that our 'aumakua (family god) was the shark, and as such, offerings were made to the mano at a special family shrine close to Kane'ohe Marine Base," she said.
A grandnephew, the well-known kumu hula Chinky Mahoe, said "Uncle Solo" would befriend just about anyone he encountered, including the tourists who found their way to Kailua Beach, then considered a remote location.
"Today, you don't find people having the aloha that he had," he said. "He just gave freely. There's not too many people that will hang out by the beach and entertain the tourists."
He married the former Mona Park; the couple had three daughters — not counting the many hanai kids adopted into the household.
"I remember as a child my father swimming in dark blue ocean with sharks," Nani Mahoe said. "I watched the top fin cut through the water, frightened. Daddy reminded me that I should not be afraid of the shark — they would not hurt us.
"However, I told him that I was only half-Hawaiian and maybe the shark would only see the Korean in me."
He was widely traveled, bringing his Hawaiian language and culture with him. Nani said he outlived almost all his contemporaries, leaving only a half-brother among his elder 'ohana. His friends at the end of life were largely the children and grandchildren of those befriended decades earlier.
"He felt his life was one of fun," she said.
At the ceremony at her home on Saturday night, there were many remembrances, song and stories about Solo Mahoe. "Good fun," was a phrase heard many times. "It was good fun," the people who remembered Solo said. "All good fun."
At the conclusion of the celebration, Nani performed a hula in memory of her father. The title was "I'll Remember You."
Then yesterday, his friends and family took his ashes out onto Kailua Bay.
Solo Mahoe had chosen as his final resting place a large ginger jar with tapa print.
"He said, 'This is going to be my house.' And he was specific, telling us to attach the lid but not seal it. This is so when he was ready to leave he could get out," Nani said.
"He said, 'When I'm ready to leave, I want to frolic in the ocean, tickle the ladies and sun on the beach."
Seen at http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Nov/08/ln/ln09p.html
Cross-posted to hawaiians