OHA pioneer dies after a life devoted to Hawaiians

LIHU’E — The Rev. Moses Kapalekilahao Keale, Sr., who represented Kaua’i on

the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years, died

Wednesday night at Wilcox Memorial Hospital after a long bout with


Visitation is scheduled for Monday at the Lihu’e Convention Hall

at 3 p.m.

Keale, 62, retired from his trustee office in November. He is

described as a OHA pioneer and visionary by his former peers.

“Thanks to

him we have some building blocks at OHA because when he started there wasn’t

even a road map,” said Trustee Rowena Akana.

“He will be sorely missed and

for all of his contributions at OHA, the Hawaiian community is


Elected in 1980, Keale is the longest serving trustee in OHA

history and is credited with starting many successful programs for Native

Hawaiians that are still in operation today. These programs, which help both

young and old include:

* Aha Opio, a leadership training program for Native

Hawaiian youth, wherein students come to O’ahu and learn about the state

Legislature first hand. According to Keale’s former administrative aide, this

program was Keale’s “baby.”

“He even went and lived in the dorms with the

kids (during the program) for about nine years until he became ill,” said

Gladys Rodenhurst, who worked for Keale from 1991 until he retired last


* Aha Kapuna, an education and cultural enrichment program for the

elderly where they talk story about their history, which is saved for


* The $10 million Native Hawaiian Education Foundation, which

allows Native Hawaiians of any age to apply for scholarships for educational


* The Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund program, which

assisted OHA beneficiaries aspiring to become entrepreneurs by lending them

funds at low interest rates. As a result of this program, Keale was named

Minority Business Advocate of the year by the Small Business Association and

named a Living Treasure of Hawai’i by the Hawai’i Hongwanji Association.

A $10 million fund assisting Habitat for Humanity to create homes for Native

Hawaiians on Kaua’i.

Underlying all his work, Rodenhurst said, was Keale’s

concern for the Native Hawaiian people.

Akana would agree.

“He came

from a background where they didn’t have everything, and I think he was just

trying to do his very best to help the next generations of Hawaiians to do

better than he,” Akana said.

To Clayton Hee, OHA Board of Trustees

chairman, Keale leaves a legacy of hope and inspiration to his people. The fact

that he served nearly two decades of unbroken service to an elected office “is

a testament to the contribution and sacrifices he made so others can benefit,”

Hee said.

Keale steered clear of the controversy that often characterized

OHA over the years, Akana said.

“He was quiet in his ways and he never got

involved in any of the fighting in the press or those kinds of things,” she


Born in Pu’uwai on Ni’ihau, Keale is described as a quiet, strongly

religious man.

After graduating from Waimea High School in 1956, he joined

the Army National Guard and even though he was told Hawaiians weren’t qualified

to become officers, he passed Officers’ Candidate School.

He then became a

counselor in the Kaua’i Job Corps Program and a social worker for the State

Department of Social Services and Housing.

Keale was elected and re-elected

five times to his OHA trustee seat, sometimes campaigning on a very small


In 1992, Keale was ordained as a minister serving as an assistant

at Ke Akua Mana Church in Kapa’a.

Keale was diagnosed with diabetes when he

was 30 years old. When his condition worsened in 1992, he was put on dialysis.

Even though he was ill, he continued to be the pillar to his family. He

was their adviser, “the glue that kept us all together,” said Marla Silva,

Keale’s daughter.

During his last years, it was extremely important to

Keale that his family learn how to go back to church and seek guidance.

“Because that’s what he used to do for us —we would come to him and ask

him to pray for us,” Silva said.

“In the end that was, I think, why he knew

he could go because he knew we all knew what to do and how to take care of

ourselves in our family.”

Last week, Keale asked to be taken off the

dialysis machine and let nature take its course, Akana said.

“It was hard

for us but it was his decision and we supported him in his decision,” Silva


As he was passing, family members gathered and read poetry to him,

just as he had done with his children when they were growing up, she said.

The last two lines of Keale’s favorite poem contains a key to his character,

she added.

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” wrote

19th century British poet William Ernest Henley in his work


“That was what he did,” Silva said, “He decided that ‘this is

my fate, this is what I’m going to do’ and he was strong and brave to the


Keale is survived by his wife, Dianne L. Severn Keale of Anahola;

three daughters, Donna (Santus) Wichimai; Marla (Patrick) Silva; and Sally Ann

(Randy) Diana, all of Anahola; four sons, Anthony (Jennie) Keale of Anahola;

Nolan (Donna) Keale of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Moses (Sandy) Keale of Anahola;

and Leland (Christy) Keale of Anahola; three brothers, Moses (Elaine) Keale,

Jr. of Anahola; Arthur (Dorothy) Keale of Waimea; and Joseph K. (Jeanette)

Keale of Kapa’a; and three sisters, Rose “Loke” (Charles) Kaliloa of Anahola;

Adeline Rivera of Anahola; and Josephine Keale of Makaweli; 23 grandchildren,

one great-grandchild, and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces and


Visitation is scheduled for Monday at the Lihu’e Convention Hall

at 3 p.m. Services will be conducted at 7 p.m. and visitation will continue

after the services.

Cremation will follow the day after and inurnment will

be on Thursday, May 11, at the Hanapepe Hawaiian Cemetery at 10 a.m. Casual

attire is suggested.


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