Ahana family celebrates deep Hawaii connection

  • Contributed

    Back issues of The Garden Island chronicle stories of the Ahana family.

  • Contributed

    Eliza Choy Yee Chun Ahana Young

  • Contributed

    The Ahana family of Huleia Valley are the subject of a historical book.

More than 200 descendants of a pioneer rice farmer known simply as Ahana will gather for a reunion on Oahu (July 21) and Kauai (July 26-28).

Ahana and his wife, Jay Shee, had 12 children. Their descendants now hail from all over the world, and have excelled in law, medicine, business, education, journalism and politics.

Two of the 12 Ahana children, the late Koon Chong (K.C.) and Koon Ming (K.M.) Ahana, had long, distinguished careers in Kauai County government.

First elected at the age of 25, K.C. Ahana served more than 39 consecutive years as county treasurer, losing only his first race in 1917.

K.M. Ahana was elected outright as county auditor in each primary election. His first term began in 1924, and he devoted more than 37 straight years in office after that. To date, the two brothers’ records for continuous service in elective county offices remain unsurpassed in Hawaii.

Ahana immigrated to Hawaii from China around 1877 to seek his fortune, living on Oahu before moving to Kauai. He was born Chun Lin Hung. His Chinese peers in the islands called him “Ah Hung,” which was adapted to “Ahana” by Hawaiians.

Through ingenuity, perseverance and hard work, Ahana built a successful rice business in Huleia Valley near Lihue, and was a respected community leader who counted sugar magnate George Wilcox among his close friends.

When Ahana died on Jan. 28, 1926, at the age of 81, flags at Lihue School and Kauai’s County Building flew at half-mast as a sign of respect and tribute to him. Hundreds of people attended his funeral, and he was laid to rest at Kapaia Cemetery.

The highlight of reunion activities on Kauai will be an ATV adventure that stops at a scenic spot overlooking Huleia Valley. There, participants will be able to see the former location of the Ahanas’ home and rice farm.

A 240-page, full-color, soft-cover book chronicling the Ahana clan’s history has been produced. Because the family tree has grown so large, members of the 12 “branches,” representing Ahana and Jay Shee’s 12 children, will be identified by T-shirts of different colors.

“Our first reunion was in 1984, and this will be the eighth one since then,” said reunion chairperson Candace Yanagihara.

“The oldest members of our Ahana ohana are now over 100 years old, and the youngest are infants. Our family keeps growing, and the reunions are a way for us to keep connected and to remember our roots, which all trace back to Ahana and Jay Shee and their rice farm and mill in Huleia Valley,” she said.

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