HANAPEPE – First, they told stories of the late Fortunato “Foto” Agosto, Jr.
Then, as he would have wanted, they played tennis.
A plaque in honor of policeman, friend, father, brother, son, boyfriend and “true Kauaian” Agosto was formally unveiled at the tennis courts behind Hanapepe Stadium Monday morning, erected right in the spot where Agosto held court as the court jester, famed eater and active member of the Hanapepe adult tennis team.
And although he left this world in the fall of 1999, the fruits of his compassion continue to grow, according to those close to him.
Liz Kawamura, Agosto’s sister, said a Lihu’e woman came up to her on one occasion and said her brother did so much for her son.
Agosto taught him to play tennis at a young age, and the mother said her son went on to graduate from Kamehameha Schools, where he excelled in sports, because of the chance to participate first given him by Agosto.
The mother had encouraged the son to take up tennis to keep the boy out of trouble, and give him something positive to occupy his time, Kawamura said.
The plaque reads “In memory of our beloved friend and fellow tennis player. ‘He brought joy to all tennis players young and old.'”
Of the 50 or so people who turned out for the dedication of the plaque, though, only around half are regular tennis players. The rest are family members and other friends of Foto.
Agosto was nine days into his 50th year when he passed away, and those gathered clearly still miss the man.
The common theme of remembrance was that Agosto welcomed everyone as friends, and always treated everyone fairly, the same, said Lt. Marty Curnan of the Kauai Police Department.
Guys on the Westside looked up to him, and when Agosto patrolled the Koloa beat, nothing ever went down, Curnan said.
“Foto was the man down there. The last of the policemen. He did it his way,” Curnan recalled.
In the 1980 recruit class that Agosto came out of were other outstanding officers, including the recently retired Alvin Seto and the recently promoted Lt. Dean Pigao, Curnan said.
Another member of that class also died before his time, Curnan said of Nelson Waiamau.
Curnan said that recruit class became good friends on and off the job, oftentimes camping together on weekends as a huge extended family.
He didn’t even know Agosto had taken up tennis until they met at a karaoke bar after work one day and Agosto came in with a sweat-soaked tank top T-shirt and shorts.
“He was one of a kind,” said friend Charlie Valdez, who said he was closer to Agosto than he is to his own brothers.
“Well, we miss him, right?” he asked the crowd.
“After tennis, he loved food,” said Valdez, adding that Agosto went to heaven before them to make sure there would be tennis courts built there by the time the rest of them arrive.
“God bless him. God bless his family, and all his friends,” Valdez said.
Barbara Bennett, Kauaian Days coordinator, came up with the plaque idea to honor Agosto, whom she called “a true Kauaian.” The two played tennis together at the four-court Hanapepe facility, and together helped organize the island’s adult tennis league, she said.
From the beginning, Agosto welcomed Bennett as one would a family member or long-time friend, she said.
A drawing done three years ago by Juan Lorenzo, Jr., one of Agosto’s classmates at Waimea High School (Class of 1969), led finally to the unveiling of the plaque yesterday.
County workers including Bernard Carvalho got the cement stand finished in less than five working days, after Agosto’s girlfriend, Midi Yamanaka, finally got the plaque, Yamanaka said.
Another man who played tennis with Agosto said that if there was too much post-tennis beer consumed, Agosto the policeman and friend would warn against driving, telling all they could stay at the “Foto Motel.”
Another tennis partner said that because the plaque is permanently secured in a cement stand on the place where Agosto used to sit and razz everybody going onto or coming off the courts, that Agosto would have demanded that the shrine be moved so he could enjoy his regular seat.
Agosto changed the partner’s life by introducing him to his family and friends, who became the Mainland native’s friends, he said.
“Foto was always there for family,” Kawamura said. He would mediate problems big or small, “and never took sides. He was there to catch you whenever you fall.”
She called her brother “the party animal,” saying many memorable gatherings convened at his home. She added that she had always wanted to honor him in some way, and that the plaque seems an appropriate symbol.
Finally, she called him “a role model,” and thanked all his friends who visited the ailing Agosto when he was in a Honolulu hospital on his death bed.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).