Community involvement get crowns for Paleka, Nakaahiki

NUKOLI — Herman Paleka of Kealia and Ramona M. Nakaahiki of Kekaha topped a field of a dozen nominees for the honor of being Kaua‘i’s Outstanding Older Americans.

That announcement was made during the 41st Annual Older American Award Recognition luncheon Friday at the Hilton Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

Paleka, modest in his honor, said thanks should go to Stella Miyoshi, his nominator, for always being on his back to make sure his paperwork was done on time.

“Without her constant asking, I wouldn’t be up here,” Paleka said.

He added that all of the (senior) volunteers were deserving of being outstanding, and it is through their silent, hard work that good, solid families are built. Good families are the foundation of good communities, he said.

Nakaahiki, who, while smothered in lei, was missing the company of her fellow Kekaha seniors who occupied a table at the back of the resort’s ballroom.

At a loss for words, she said, “I only hope I can make Kaua‘i proud.”

The honorees were selected by a judging panel consisting of Cyndi Ayonon, Joe Neil and Julie Souza.

Their choices came from a field of a dozen seniors who were nominated by various individuals and organizations in recognition of their contributions to the community as well as personal achievements and accomplishments.

This year’s field of outstanding Older Americans included Basilia Asuncion, Nannette Butler, Lillian Daily, Josephine Dela Torre, Asako Iwamoto, Loretta King, Bernice Silva, Kikuo Harada, John Iwamoto and Commander Albert Moe, USN (Ret).

Paleka, a retired educator, was recognized for his volunteer work with numerous community organizations including the Mahelona Charitable Foundation Board, Kapa‘a Elementary School and the Kapa‘a Elementary School Community Council, the Boy Scouts of America, Aloha Council, the Kaua‘i Interfaith Council, Pihana Na Mamo, and involvement with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nakaahiki was honored for her active involvement and leadership with the Kekaha Senior Center, Kekaha Elementary School, Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital, and her church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was nominated by Lola Cruz of the Kekaha Senior Center.

Both Paleka and Nakaahiki will be honored at a statewide recognition ceremony with Gov. Linda Lingle on O‘ahu, May 24.

The award recognition ceremony and luncheon, held in conjunction of May’s Older Americans Month celebration, featured Karen Keawehawaii as the headline entertainment act with Bernard Carvalho, Jr. serving as emcee for the day.

The event was sponsored by the County of Kaua‘i, Office of the Mayor and the Agency on Elderly Affairs, Offices of Community Assistance.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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