When one of Kauai CrossFit’s gym members suddenly passed away, family and friends gathered at the gym to honor her the best way they knew how — working out.
“A lot of people think that it’s serious and you got to push yourself. It’s just about having fun. It’s about having people that you can relate to and having a community,” said Justin Kanoho, a Kauai CrossFit coach. “The four or five ladies that were in that class, they were always having fun, always pushing each other and always there for each other.”
Yukie De Silva died Jan. 26 after a swift battle with stage 4 uterine cancer. She was 48.
De Silva had been a member of Kauai CrossFit since 2015. She and a group of women were affectionately known as the gym’s aunties.
“Yeah, we’re the old ladies,” said Charla Brock, De Silva’s cousin and part of that group. “She (De Silva) did really well, I must say. She loved it. She was the one that supported and always encouraged us. Sometimes, ‘I’m not going today.’ And she would be like, ‘Come on, let’s go. Only a couple more days. We’re going to get it done.’ We did. We kept coming. She was the one that encouraged us to come.”
De Silva worked in the advertising department of The Garden Island newspaper. She was hired in 1989.
Dozens of family, friends and gym members gathered at Kauai CrossFit in Lihue on Saturday morning. To honor De Silva, the participating group did the intense workout hand-picked by De Silva.
Before De Silva died, Brock visited her on Oahu to put together a list of workouts for a planned fundraiser.
It was supposed to be a list of De Silva’s favorites. But instead, showing a sly sense of humor, De Silva wrote down the workouts she hated.
“I was like, ‘This is all the stuff we dread at workout.’ She just nods her head like, ‘Yup. I know.’ Like telling me, ‘You’re going to do this. This is my workout,’” Brock said. “If you know her, she’s a character. She’d be like, ‘These guys are going to suffer. I want to see all these guys do this.’”
She added: “I have the paper. I’ll forever keep that paper because that’s like our last conversation, her and I. I feel honored that I can do this for her. I know she’s looking down and saying, ‘Thank you, cousin.’ And I miss her.”
During the workout, participants did reps of 24 during some of the exercises — an homage to her favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant, who wore No. 24.
Most participants also wore the color purple as another way to honor De Silva.
“I appreciate it because she was a big part of this. Every day, I hear about CrossFit and this and that,” said Kevin De Silva, De Silva’s husband. “She loved this place. I really appreciate what they did for her.”
He said of his wife’s passing: “I was devastated. I was with her since she was 16 years old. She’s my best friend. We had no secrets from each other. The one thing I can say is that I have no regrets. I gave her everything I had, and I told her that I loved her every day. I got no regrets about that. We had a good time.”
Also among attending family members was their daughter, Moana Baltazar. Though she does not attend CrossFit classes, she participated in Saturday’s workout for her mother.
“That was hard, but it was fun,” Baltazar said. “It was really motivating. I was partnered with one of her partners, so she pushed me and kept reminding me that mom did this. She would be so proud. She always tried to get me to come with her, and I couldn’t. But she got me here, and I did it.”
Baltazar added about the gathering at Kauai CrossFit: “This is her family. That’s her ohana, her CrossFit ohana. It really means a lot to us. I’m glad we were home for it because we weren’t scheduled to come home yet.”
Jerome Hromiak, the former owner of the Kauai CrossFit gym, also participated in Saturday’s workout. Hromiak said De Silva always brought the laughs in class.
“She was above and beyond. At least in class here, she always made people laugh. She was joking a lot,” he said. “She had a dry sense of humor that was really funny if you heard what was under her breath. In her heart, I know she always wanted everybody to have a good time.”
Hromiak said of De Silva’s passing: “Anytime someone gets cancer like that and it just ravages the body, and it takes them out so quickly, it’s shocking. She came in here for her last workout on Dec. 10, I think. And by January, whatever it is, she passed on to the other side. It all happened pretty much within a month.”
Following the workout and a photo opportunity, attendees stayed for a potluck.
Those that spoke about De Silva on Saturday all mentioned certain characteristics about her they remember — her sense of humor, her strong-willed personality and her love for her family, immediate and extended.
“She’s a strong person. She’ll tell you how it is, but she’s honest and fair. She’s just a strong person — the rock of our family,” Kevin De Silva said.
Baltazar said: “She could get along with anybody. You would know if she didn’t like you, but you had to do something for her not to like you. But she liked everyone. Everyone got along with her.”
Kanoho said: “There was not a time when she didn’t come in with a smile. She’s just a super joyous person, and it’s something that can’t be replicated. And she knew how to give that off. If you’re having a bad day, she’s going to find a way to make it a good day either by her jokes or her smile.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.