KAPAA — The sound of saws ripping wood blended with the strains of “Happy Birthday” being sung by the residents of the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital Monday morning.
“Work started this month on renovating the old dining room,” said John Sizelove of the Hawaii Healthcare Systems Corp., the umbrella organization to which Mahelona Hospital and the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital operate under. “This is just one of a few Capital Improvement Projects we received funding for.”
Inside the Mahelona Hospital auditorium, a rare feature among contemporary hospitals, Chieko Matsumoto sat at the head of a celebratory cake honoring the birth of Samuel Mahelona on the hospital’s 99th anniversary.
“She is our oldest surviving resident,” said Josie Pablo, Mahelona Hospital recreation director. “Samuel Mahelona’s birthday was Sunday, but everyone couldn’t make it, so we’re celebrating his birthday on Monday. Chieko Matsumoto is 103 years old. She was four years old when the hospital was dedicated in 1917.”
The Mahelona Hospital staff took time to enjoy the residents’ singing and enjoy a mid-morning snack of birthday cake and ice cream while Mahelona Hospital volunteer Wilma Chandler draped a Tahitian ginger lei on the portrait of Samuel Mahelona on the wall of the hospital’s lobby.
Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital was one of the first hospitals on Kauai, founded in 1917 by the Sugar Planters Association. It was designed as a memorial to Samuel Mahelona, son of Emma Kauikeolani Napoleon Mahelona Wilcox, wift of Albert Wilcox, who died of tuberculosis at a young age in 1912.
The hospital was designed to serve tuberculosis patients on Kauai, and additional buildings were added over the years to accomodate increasing numbers of patients and services.