‘They make us better’

Kind. Courteous. Gracious. Sincere. Generous.

Those were just some of the words used to describe the “Living Treasures of Kauai and Niihau” who were honored Saturday.

“I want to welcome you to a love fest,” presenter David Scott told the crowd of about 450 at the Kauai Beach Resort. “Today, we’re going to love, and I use that word, we’re going to love people.”

It was Scott who started this event first held in 1988 to honor those who make Kauai and Niihau great places to live, who give much of themselves to better the lives of those around them. Since then, 80 people have been named Living Treasures of Kauai and Niihau.

“None of them do it for any return, but they do it for Kauai,” Scott said during the awards luncheon put on by the Kauai Museum.

Those honored were Tony Faye Jr., Dennis Fujimoto, Jay Furfaro, Norman and Mabel Hashisaka, Beverly Apana Muraoka, Marina Pascua, Frank and Abby Santos and Mary Thronas. Ed Kenney was honored with a Friend of the Museum Award. Each received a plaque, certificate, praise and applause for doing their best to make the island a loving, welcoming place for everyone. They were thanked for being beacons of examples not just in words, but in the lives they’ve led.

Maryanne Kusaka, president of the Kauai Museum Board of Directors, called on the honorees to cherish every moment of the very special day.

“It will provide wonderful memories when you’re sitting on that rocking chair,” she said as the crowd laughed.

Mary Thronas said she was overwhelmed by the accolades of the well-organized affair.

“You know there are so many other people that deserve this, but I am so thankful that we were selected here,” she said. “It was wonderful.’

Norman Hashisaka said being named a Living Treasure was one of his greatest honors.

“I have never had any experience like this before and I really appreciate it,” he said. “I feel so honored — I am so thankful.”

Here’s just a little information about each Living Treasure, their award and what Scott said about them:

– Tony Faye Jr., “Sugar Heritage Preservation.”

Born in Waimea, Faye has a 32-year career at Amfac Inc., the last 14 as manager at both Lihue and Kekaha sugar plantations. His accomplishments were many, but providing affordable homeownership and rentals for plantation employees and retirees at Kekaha ranks as the most important.

“He’s one of the good guys,” Scott said. “He always took care of the workers, he was always looking out for the other guy.”

– Dennis Fujimoto, “Excellence in Photojournalism.”

Fujimoto started working for The Garden Island newspaper in the mid-1980s, covering everything of significance, including sports. His long-running column, “The Happy Camper,” is a TGI staple.

“He’s not only an artist. He loves people, you can see it in his photographs,” Scott said. “Dennis takes his camera, then he and his camera become one.”

“He loves Kauai, he loves its people,” Scott added. “We are so privileged he is there documenting in The Garden Island what this life is like on this lovely island that we have.”

– Jay Furfaro, “Preserving Aloha in the Visitor Industry and Government.”

Furfaro has a long list of public service and volunteerism to his credit including his present role as County Council Chairman. But he has the soul of a surfer, who becomes one with nature and the island, Scott said.

“That’s what I admire about Jay. He listens, he learns and he became part of this island.”

– Norman and Mabel Hashisaka, “Excellence in Business Aloha.”

Not only did they work together in a family business begun by Mabel’s father, the Hashisakas also worked within a partnership of family businesses that bonded together to create a successful islandwide chain of Big Save stores and other businesses. Their Kauai Kookie gained international fame.

“They never learned the word ‘no,’” Scott said.

“They’re all about family and taking care of employees.”

Kusaka noted there were Kauai Kookies on the tables of the luncheon.

“Guess how they got there?” she said.

– Beverly Apana Muraoka, “Perpetuation of Hawaiian Music and Dance.”

An entertainer to the core — there is the light-hearted, audience-pleasing Hawaiian musical performer of over 50 years and then there is the serious kumu hula, teacher of wahine in the venerable art of hula. Aunty Bev embraces both with skill and aloha.

“You just feel good being around her,” Scott said, adding there is joy wherever Muraoka goes.

“She is one of God’s great gifts to us through her music,” he said.

– Frank and Abby Santos, “Excellence in Business Leadership and Community Service.”

Through their business No Ka Oi Landscaping, the Santos have been leaders in community service, including Hanapepe Bougainvillea and the Knudsen Gap Tree Tunnel cleanup projects.

They create beauty, Scott said.

“When people are part of the earth, you know they are wonderful, good people,” he said.

“People like the Santos keep our heritage, they keep our Hawaiian culture alive.”

– Marina Pascua, “Excellence in Community Service.”

Pascua “gained a passion for sharing the Aloha Spirit from her plantation roots and career in the visitor industry. The proof is the many lifelong friends she made.”

Scott called her an unsung hero, quiet and unassuming; a person who radiates joy, who makes others better.

“She presents what makes America, what makes Kauai, great,” he said.

– Mary Thronas, “Excellence in Government Service.”

Thronas entered the political fray of the early statehood years as a Democratic convention delegate in 1962. She was appointed in the later years of the John Burns governorship as governor’s liaison for Kauai and she remained in the office under two mover governors, George Ariyoshi and John Waihee.

“She’s as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside, and that’s the truth,” Scott said.

Thronas has given much to Kauai, always urging those around her to dream big.

“And Mary did that,” Scott said.

– Ed Kenney, “Excellence as a Performing Artist.”

Music and acting became muses for the young singer, and in 1950 he won a Rodgers and Hammerstein scholarship, which allowed him to appear in the Broadway production of “Shangri La.” He became one of the most successful singers and actors from Hawaii.

“I don’t think there is anyone as talented, as handsome, with such a beautiful voice, as Ed Kenney,” said Scott, noting they are longtime friends.

Scott said was he was never envious of Kenney, but was in awe of his talent.

“Ed cares most about Kauai, about his Anahola, that’s his blood,” he said.

Scott said one thing the Living Treasures share is their love of the land. They understand they are stewards of the island and help others learn that, too.

“Every one of them loves their Kauai,” he said. “They make us better.”

Jane Gray, museum director, said each of the Living Treasures is precious to the community. The luncheon was an opportunity “to inhale and exhale all the essence of what makes this island special.”

“They are the plant and the seed that keeps it beautiful,” she said.

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