Friday, May 27, 2022 |
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LIHUE – If you see 68-year-old Ulii Castor on her early morning walks in Koloa, you can bet she will be wearing a fresh flower in her hair.
Born on Oahu and raised on Molokai, she has lived on a plantation home in Koloa for the past 38 years.
“People and flowers are my passion,” Castor said.
Whether she is cleaning at home or working in the yard raising orchids, she wears a flower.
“Flowers are part of my wardrobe,” Castor explained.
Visitors to the Kauai Museum in Lihue, where she works full time, see not only Castor’s nature-made wardrobe, they appreciate her warm demeanor.
“I enjoy talking with people and meeting them. That’s my passion,” Castor said.
Her grandfather was a huge influence on her. At the age of 12, he stowed away on board a ship from the Philippines to Maui, and lived to the age of 106. She said the secret to his long life was daily walks and his jigger of whiskey every night.
“He used to walk to chicken fights, to visit friends and to Candlestick Park with me,” Castor remembered when they used to live in the Bay Area. “The doctors said he had the heart of a 10-year-old boy.”
“I hope I follow with his genes, not that I want to live that long, I just want to stay looking young like he did,” Castor said.
The oldest of eight children, Castor remembers sharing one doll with all her sisters at Christmas. But that didn’t really matter much.
“We made our own toys back then,” Castor recalled. “We’d grab vines from trees, swing on them and jump into the ocean.”
They’d play bowling games with kukui nuts. Then there were the softball games played with sticks for bats and passion fruit for balls.
“Whatever we could find, we’d play with, but the passion fruit would get smashed when we’d smack it,” Castor said.
Her love of sports continued into adulthood whenever she could score comp tickets to the watch the San Francisco Giants. She and her grandfather would walk from their shared apartment near Candlestick Park to the games and share a tub of popcorn and what felt like a lifetime of priceless memories.
Those were the days when she worked as a clerk for the Marine Corps on Treasure Island in California.
“The players would come out before the game and talk story. We had choice seats by the third baseline every weekend they were in town,” Castor remembered. “We got to see Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.”
In 1977, Castor moved to Kauai to be closer to her parents who lived on Molokai. She worked in various positions at the Pacific Missile Range Facility for 29 years, part of that time as a housing manager.
“My nickname on the base was ‘Miss Aloha,’” Castor recalled. “I enjoyed working on the military base, even if they could sometimes be knuckleheads. I was like a mother or counselor to the families there.”
Castor’s mother was known as, “Pearly.” She baked coconut cakes and prune cakes that people would stand in line to indulge in at parties.
“They’d get their dessert first and then go eat their meal cause they didn’t wanna miss out on her cakes,” Castor said.
The other valuable lesson she learned from Pearly.
“I pray and thank the man above for what we have,” Castor said. “I pray in the morning to thank him for waking up and I thank him again at bedtime because I might not get up in the morning. I enjoy every day to the fullest because you never know.”
This is an ongoing weekly feature in The Garden Island. It focuses on everyday people who reflect the spirit that makes Kauai the place it is today. If you know of somebody you’d like to see featured, email features and education reporter Lisa Ann Capozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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