Memorial Day comes alive

HANAPEPE — Donovan Travaso, Larry Rivera and the Boy Scouts from Troop 148 all started from different areas of the island, but crossed paths in Hanapepe.

The meeting point was the Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe where Donovan Travaso and Gordon Matsumura, caretakers for the cemetery, were busy tending to questions and preparing for a funeral later in the day.

This was the first day of the three-day Memorial Day weekend, and the cemetery was pulsating with the steady stream of people coming and going, pausing to visit graves.

“We’ve been real busy since Thursday,” Travaso said, pausing from the task at hand. “We have five funerals before the Memorial Day service.”

The annual service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Among those in the traffic of visitors, Kaua‘i composer and entertainer Larry Rivera and his wife Gloria were scanning the grounds.

“I know we have one more relative here, but we haven’t been able to find him,” Gloria Rivera said.

The Riveras have a tradition of visiting relatives’ graves during Memorial Day, starting out early at the Kealia Cemetery, then heading to the Kapa‘ia cemetery, followed by Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe before ending at the Kekaha Cemetery, where they have a lot of graves to visit.

“My dad was a veteran of WWI,” Rivera, himself a Korean War veteran, said. “But he was also a plumber with the county for more than 35 years, and the people on the Westside loved him. They always talk good about how he used to help them for free.”

For the day-long trek, the Riveras harvest more than 100 stalks of heliconia they grow around their home just for this purpose.

“The car is filled with heliconia,” Gloria said. “We put some on all the graves we visit. We know we have other graves to visit, but we can’t find them.”

Gloria said for those graves they can’t locate, it’s all right because “we pray for them in church.”

Larry takes advantage of these visits to chat with friends and other people he hasn’t seen, stopping to check with Matsumura on the status of the cemetery.

“The Boy Scouts were here from early this morning and they took care of making sure the headstones were clean, secure, and they even cleaned the vases,” Travaso said. “They’ll be back early Monday morning to set up the flags and lei.”

Part of the group included scouts from Troop 148 who hiked over from their camp site at the Salt Pond Beach Park.

“I don’t know how long we’ve been doing this, but it’s an excuse to go camping,” Lyle Tabata, scoutmaster for the troop, said. “The boys love camping. If you ask the scouts why they joined, about 90 percent of them will say it’s because of the camping.”

Tabata said the annual camping trip coincides with not only the service project of helping at the Veterans Cemetery, but is also an educational and cultural learning experience.

“We are going to help one family in the salt pans after the boys have lunch,” Tabata said. “We’re lucky because we know someone who has a plot in the salt pans. This way, the boys can learn about harvesting salt.”

Traditionally, scouts from Troop 148 and 83 have been anchoring chores at the cemetery for not only Memorial Day, but Veterans Day as well.

“I hope a lot of scouts come out this year,” Tabata said. “I made the announcement at the last (Aloha Council) meeting, so hopefully, they can make it.”

Larry Rivera, who has volunteered his services for the veterans when they ask, said this is one of the traditions we must teach our children.

“We’re not getting out of this place alive,” he said with a chuckle. “So the only thing we can do is enjoy and do good onto others.”

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

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