Dadly “Bobo” Ham Young was born into one of a handful of North Shore families that truly perpetuated the Hawaiian culture as a way of living. And he carried the torch like no one else.
“He was everything to me, my dad, my child, my friend,” said Hayley Ham Young, Bobo’s daughter. “He was just a really beautiful, deep caring person.”
The iconic Hawaiian died last Friday morning in a car accident in Wainiha, where he was born and raised. He was 61, and leaves behind three children and an extended ohana that has been deeply rooted in Wainiha and Haena for several generations.
Bobo touched many people through his generosity, youthfulness, enthusiasm and willingness to help others like one else, Hayley Ham Young said.
“He gave his all, he worked hard, living a full life as full as he could to the last minute,” said Shane Ham Young, Bobo’s youngest brother. “I lost a good brother.”
Bobo’s trademark laugh was unmistakable. Hayley Ham Young said he always put a smile on people’s face, and always made sure everyone around him knew how much he loved them.
“Bobo was probably the purest form of aloha,” said professional surfer Dustin Barca, Bobo’s hanai son. “His life revolved around everybody else; everything he did was selfless.”
Police said they’re still investigating what caused Bobo’s car to veer off the road and land upside down in the ocean, and are not releasing autopsy results yet. Though his car was found by a bystander at 7:15 a.m., county officials said they aren’t clear when the accident occurred.
Though Bobo’s life was cut short in a tragic way, his legacy will live on.
“Anybody that felt his smile and aloha, is going to miss him dearly forever; anybody he touched, he left a mark on.” said Barca, who carries Bobo’s name tattooed on his leg “since the day he left.”
“He was definitely a Mr. Aloha,” said Denise Ham Young, married to Bobo’s older brother, Rick Ham Young. If anybody needed him, Bobo was there to help in any way he could, she added.
“He was everybody’s Uncle Bobo; he touched people from young kids to older adults,” she said.
To Barca, Bobo was a role model who connected Kauai’s old ways with the new generation.
Hayley Ham Young said Bobo was a talented master craftsman, an aspect of his life that many didn’t know. He was also a cultural practitioner who fished, gathered and stood up for Hawaiian rights, she said.
“Being (Henry) Tai Hook’s grandson, (Bobo) was highly respected and well known,” said movie producer John Werheim, who first met Bobo in the 1970s.
Werheim featured Bobo in the movie Taylor Camp released in 2009, a documentary about the pot-friendly, clothing-optional tree-house village in Haena from 1969 to 1977.
“I would say he was one of the stars of the show, because he got more laughs than just about anyone else in that film,” Werheim said of Bobo’s interview in the movie. “His part in the film often brought the theater audience rolling in the aisles … Anyone who sees Taylor Camp will remember Bobo.”
In the movie, the irreverent Hawaiian spoke of the tensions between locals and the hippies who lived in tree-houses by the beach back in those days.
In one of the funnier footages of Taylor Camp, Bobo describes how he dealt with one of the hippies who kept bumping into his sister-in-law in a dance party. He says he told the guy “enough is enough,” but “he never stop, he whack my sister-in-law again.”
“Right there, I fricking, boom,” he says, gesturing a punch and letting out his unique laugh. “After that, he charging, you know. Forget the dance, you’re doing another dance.”
Werheim said Bobo, “in his own right, he was a real character.” As a kid, he was a great surfer and a tough guy known and respected by everyone, he said.
“As he got older and became an uncle, everybody really loved and respected him,” Werheim said.
Shane Ham Young, two years younger than Bobo, said when they were young children, their father worked at the powerhouse in Wainiha, but had a hard time supporting his family. After one of his brothers hooked him up with a job in Honolulu, Bobo’s father moved there with his wife and four boys.
Each summer and in every opportunity they could, the Ham Youngs would send their boys to visit their grandparents in Wainiha, Shane Ham Young said.
“We were always back here, we never kinda lost our roots,” he said.
When Bobo was in his senior year in high school, his grandfather had built a new home on Kauai. So he said to his younger brother, “Brah, we go home Kauai, because we’re born and raised there,” Shane Ham Young said.
After moving back here, with the help of a handful of other Hawaiians on the North Shore, they started the Hanalei Canoe Club, which was called the Hawaiian Civic Club back then, he said.
“We were pretty hard to beat,” Shane Ham Young said. “Hanalei became a legend; that’s how people found out about Hanalei, because of what we were doing.”
The “kids from Hanalei” who had never experienced statewide competition, “just blew people away,” he said.
Bobo never stopped paddling, and eventually became a coach for many years. He was also responsible for getting their older brother, “Slick” Rick Ham Young, into paddling, Shane Ham Young said.
He added Bobo had many surfing buddies. Former three-time world champion Andy Irons, who died three years ago, used to call Bobo his uncle, he said.
“The surfing community again lost a legend,” Shane Ham Young said.
Among many things Bobo was known for, cooking for large parties stood out as one of the family traditions he carried on.
“The whole family was famous for having phenomenal luaus,” Werheim said.
Hayley Ham Young said Black Pot Beach Park by Hanalei Pier was named after her great grandfather, Tai Hook, who used to cook there for large luaus, always using a large black pot.
Tai Hook, “the unofficial mayor” of the North Shore, had a taro farm and raised pigs in Wainiha, and was a generous fisherman who always shared his catch, first with the elderly and then with the young, Shane Ham Young said. His grandfather would always provide food for the parties, and would butcher the pigs himself.
They had a large ohana, and everyone learned how to care for each other and to respect the land. Everything that any culture could ever want was right there in Wainiha, he said.
“It was just our lifestyle here on Kauai on the North Shore,” Shane Ham Young said.
Bobo’s mother, beloved North Shore icon Cathy Ham Young, died last April. Shane Ham Young said he also lost an uncle recently.
“Our family is really taking a toll,” he said.
Bobo’s services will be at Pinetrees in Hanalei Dec. 8, with a paddle-out at 11 a.m. to spread flowers.
“It was just a full life, so full that not enough words can say it,” Shane Ham Young said. “Too much, too much, and it’s all good.”
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org