LIHUE — Those close to Morris “Bud” White will tell you he was a man always on the go.
Over the years, you may have seen him on one of his daily, early morning walks from his Kilauea home to the end of Kuhio Highway at Kee Beach, near the start of the Kalalau Trail, and back again, a nearly 31-mile round-trip journey.
You may have even seen him, on other days, when he would ride the bus from Kilauea to Hanamaulu and hike his way back home to Kilauea.
If you stopped by Anini Beach Park, you may have seen him teach residents and visitors alike how to play cribbage — if you were brave enough, you may have even accepted his challenge for a game or two.
And that, friends and family say, is how they want people to remember him.
It has been exactly one year since White, a former Marine Corps sergeant major, died at the age of 84, but those closest to him are working to keep his spirit alive by installing a memorial bench at Anini Beach.
“I just thought it was something that would be lasting,” White’s daughter, Karen Grillos, said on Thursday from her Denver home. “Since he was always happy and smiling, we wanted it to be a place where people could stop by and look out at the ocean — a happy memory of him and not a sad one.”
A man of many layers
White was raised by a single mother in the Prospect Park section of Brooklyn, one of New York City’s five boroughs, and it showed, too.
“He was from New York City and he never lost his Brooklyn accent,” John Burns, vice commandant of Marine Corps League, Detachment 938, based in Lihue, said with a laugh. “He sounded like he just got off the Brooklyn Bridge subway.”
Later in life, Burns said White attended a U.S. Army tank school as a Marine and was the top graduate.
White stood out in other ways, too.
“Bud was a very cultured guy who loved to write poetry, was not given to profanity and was an accomplished dancer,” Burns said.
But his military service, which included combat missions during the Korean War and two deployments during the Vietnam War, was not hard to ascertain at first blush, Grillos said.
“He was just a big achiever,” Grillos said. “He just didn’t see a reason for things not to get done, so would just roll up his sleeves and do it.”
White even learned his game of choice, cribbage, in Korea as an order from his commanding officer, who was later killed in combat.
“He was quite a guy,” Burns said, “He really was.”
For the love of the island
After he retired from the Marine Crops in September of 1975, he moved to San Diego and found his way to Kauai several years later during a vacation stopover on his way to tour New Zealand.
“When he got to Kauai, he fell in love with it,” Grillos recalled. “He just fell in love with the people, the way of life and the beauty of the island.”
He never did, she said, make it to Aotearoa — the Maori name for New Zealand — or back to San Diego, for that matter.
After a while, Grillos said people began to recognize him from his daily walks.
He became known over time as “the North Shore walker,” the title that, she said, he would put under his name on little business cards that he kept in his wallet and gave out to people he met during his first few years on Kauai.
And he was always willing to share his knowledge and talent with others, she said.
Apart from his cribbage matches and casual lessons with beachgoers at Anini Beach, Grillos said her father volunteered at the Kauai Community Correctional Center and taught inmates how to play the game.
“People come from all over the world to Kauai and he would get letters all the time from those of whom he met at Anini Beach and taught cribbage to,” Grillos said.
As a member of the local Marine Corps League, Detachment 938, he served as the organization’s commandant for about a year and assisted the color guard for deceased Marines when they were buried at Kauai Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe.
“I find it an honor to call these names,” read an excerpt from a poem written by White and read at a 2006 memorial ceremony at Kauai Veterans Cemetery for 27 Marines and a Navy Hospital Corpsman killed in a Jan. 2005 helicopter accident in Iraq.
“As a unit, they made quite a team,” the poem read. “They were doing their job, fulfilling their mission. When their chopper went down, they became part of our Corps tradition.”
He was, for a number of years, the sole Adopt-A-Highway representative for the Marine Corps League and took pride in policing the stretch of road from Kilauea to the Princeville Shopping Center until his declining health forced him to stop in early 2010.
Although a specific amount has not been calculated, Burns said White raised more money for the Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots sponsorship than any other member by selling raffle tickets for the Lihue-based organization’s annual fundraiser.
That’s just the kind of person White was.
“He was just a tireless guy for the community,” Burns said.
A place of solitude
When her father died last year, Grillos said she and Burns worked with the county to see if she could donate funds for a bench at her father’s favorite spot, Anini Beach Park, where “people could appreciate the solitude.”
“My dad really just became a part of the island,” Grillos said. “He was so recognized and loved. I hope that it will be a place for people to enjoy for generations.”
The $2,365 donation request, according to county documents, was first sent to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation in March 2013 and approved by the Kauai County Council during their Dec. 18 public meeting.
“The granite bench will be a true asset in enhancing the enjoyment of beachgoers at Anini Beach Park,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro wrote in a letter to Burns. “Your generosity will be enjoyed by countless visitors and community members alike.”
Although a specific date and location at the beach has not determined, Paul Iwai of Silva’s Memorials said it might take about three or four months to complete from the time the bench is approved.
An inscription on the bench, according to current plans, will read: “In Loving Memory of Sgt. Maj. Bud White ‘Remember the Smiles and the Beauty’ Aloha Oe.”
Part of the inscription, Grillos said, is an excerpt from one of her father’s favorite poems that he wrote, which details the island’s beauty.
“I’m just so excited that this will be happening,” Grillos said. “It brings, in a way, a kind of closure. I know he would be very happy.”