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Hundreds celebrate John Lydgate’s life

WAILUA — Dozens of old photographs lined the pavilion at Lydgate Beach Park Tuesday, telling the story of a man who dedicated his life to the park and Kauai.

Hundreds of people gathered to see the photos, depicting John Lydgate with his family. Other pictures were of Lydgate at the beach clean-ups at the beach that bares his family name.

On Tuesday, a memorial for Lydgate — who died earlier this month — was held at the pavilion. People shared their favorite stories of him, too.

“We met in 2012. I searched him out because I was researching family history and saw my relative, Jacob Hardy, and his grandfather were building a community on the island,” said Steve Hardy. “He readily welcomed me, and we sat and chatted for two hours.”

Hardy, who lives in California, said he made a point to visit Lydgate whenever he came back to the island.

“I saw him in 2012 and 2014. I hoped to see him when I came back this time, but I missed it,” Hardy said.

Hardy remembers seeing Lydgate at the beach on Saturdays, picking up trash with the rest of the volunteers who came to clean up the area.

“He always brought coffee and doughnuts for the volunteers. He himself was working every Saturday,” he said.

Jennie Yukimura, who knew Lydgate for over 50 years, also remembers his service to the beach.

“He loved this place. He came here every day to pick up rubbish,” she said.

Morgan Pond was a passion for Lydgate, and he spent hours pulling driftwood and debris from the water so keiki had space to swim.

Lydgate died on May 1 after a brief struggle with lymphoma, surrounded by his wife Charlotte and sons Chris, Bill and Kai.

He is also survived by his son, Andrew, and his nephew, Will.

He arrived on Kauai in 1993, and during his time on the Garden Isle, Lydgate served as president of the Kauai Historical Society, a reader at St Michael’s Church, member of the Kauai Historic Preservation Commission and the Friends of Kamalani, proprietor of the Ship Store Gallery in Kapaa and was active in several communities of faith.

Soon after coming to Kauai, he began working on Lydgate Park, named after his grandfather the Rev. John Mortimer Lydgate.

“There’s a lot we can do to remember him. The park doesn’t feel quite the same without him,” said Will Lydgate, his nephew.

Lydgate graduated from Punahou School on Oahu in 1955, and went to Yale, graduating in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He received his doctoral degree from University of London.

He was also an accomplished surfer and worked summers as a lifeguard in Cornwall, England. There, he also taught people how to surf.

Karen Liberman, who has known Lydgate since he arrived on the island, said she enjoyed hearing stories of his time in England.

“He liked to tell us of his time in England and how he taught the Beatles how to surf,” she said.

Liberman said Lydgate enjoyed a good gathering.

“He was a party animal, to put it mildly,” she said. “He and his wife made sure everyone knew about the social gatherings.”

Some of her favorite memories of him are at his 80th birthday party.

“He had fire dancers and harem girls. Every friend he ever had was there,” she said.

Graeme Merrin also knew Lydgate since he came to the island. He said he was a big man with an even bigger heart.

“He always had time for everyone. He was a very thoughtful person and was very caring,” he said.

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