KCC honors campus roots

PUHI — Alton Amimoto and Rex Acosta are the self-appointed caretakers of the cemetery. 

“My grandparents are buried here. I was born in Puhi, and part of the first graduating class at the Kauai Community College,” Amimoto said about the Puhi Camp Cemetery, which he helped clean on Friday. “My dad used to care for the Japanese part of the cemetery, 20 of which are marked in Japanese, and as he got older, I would ask if he needed help, and he always said no. But he’s getting older, and so am I, so I thought I would just take over what he’s been doing.”

Amimoto was joined by more than four dozen people from Kauai Community College who toiled under humid conditions as they cleared vegetative and placed flowers at the graves of the cemetery on the backside of the Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School.

Acosta said he got started caring for the cemetery when he saw the overgrown condition on a visit to his father’s grave.

“I started cleaning around his grave,” Acosta said. “But then, I said why not do more. I asked Calvin for grass plugs and begged water from the garden so I could get the grass to grow. I’m glad these guys showed up and I was taken by surprise when they told me to come.”

KCC Chancellor Helen Cox said the idea to clean the Puhi Camp Cemetery came from Brandon Shimokawa and Calvin Shirai as a way for the college to observe its 50th anniversary.

There are 97 names listed on the gravestones — 20 marked in Japanese and 52 being unknown.

An archived account of Puhi camp indicates the camp was a close-knit ethnically diverse community with workers and families from China, Philippines, Japan, Puerto Rico and Portugal. At one point, there were 600 homes and 1,200 residents there.

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