Spark Matsunaga tribute statue near completion

A summer-long grass roots campaign to “Bring Sparky Home” began this week.

A larger-than-life bronze statue of Sen. Spark Matsunaga is in its final stages of completion in San Francisco and Mark Jeffers of the Storybook Theatre of Hawai‘i is leading the charge to bring it home.

“It’s the idea to bring home the home-town hero and tell his story,” Jeffers said. “That’s what Storybook Theatre is; we try to find good stories and deliver those good stories to young people.”

The statue is one of two key features of the Spark M. Matsunaga Children’s Garden of Peace located in back of the Storybook Theatre.

“Lots of people here watched this project grow up since last February’s (2007) ground breaking,” Jeffers said.

The garden is 75 percent complete. A Japanese bridge crosses a stream where koi and ducks were added this week. At the head of the stream is a waterfall that has been running to allow it to go through its cycles of adaptation. The gazebo is ready to be the site of classes for children. The stage is waiting for the grass to grow.

The second key feature of the garden is Kevin’s Gate. The gate is named after its designer, the late Kevin N.P. Chun. It is the last project this award-winning architect designed before passing. This “whimsical” gate includes a door especially designed for children to use.

Money raised during the campaign will also help to defray the cost of constructing the gate. The three-pronged campaign includes coin boxes located at various Westside businesses, a weekly silent auction and a mail-in newsletter.

“(By) putting coins in a box, (people) can say that they contributed to bringing Sparky home and helping to tell his story,” Jeffers said. “It’s a gift in perpetuity for Kaua‘i’s children.”

The silent auction will be held at the Storybook Theatre. Each Monday the silent auction table will have about a dozen items up for bid. Anyone can write his or her name, telephone number and bid. Bids can be updated during the week. The winning bid will be circled and announced at 8 p.m. during Hanapepe Art Night. Winners will also be notified via phone.

“The best way to begin to learn about peace is to look at someone who is a model for us,” Jeffers said. The former U.S. senator grew up in Hanapepe.

“He is a normal person who did something extraordinary with his life,” Jeffers said. “Sparky had a mission to accomplish and when he went to Washington he discovered his bigger mission, which I think was world peace.”

Senator Matsunaga was Chairman of the Commission which led to the establishment of the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1984. The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa established its Institute for Peace in 1985.

The Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace Web site says that “Matsunaga expressed his hope that ‘every student enrolled in Hawai‘i’s public university system will be exposed to peace studies.’”

Jeffers said he has a grants-in-aid submitted to work on the development of a peace curriculum for younger children.

Jeffers plans to do a documentary on Matsunaga. Along with interpretive signage, trained docents and performing arts, he hopes that when everything is completed, visitors can leave the garden with an “interpretive experience.”

A dedication of the garden is planned for July 27. Jeffers hopes the garden will be ready to open to the public in February. It depends on the success of the summer campaign to “Bring Sparky Home.”

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at


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