Charlie’s Song is a song we can sing along.
Telling all about a man we all love.
Every day you can see him by the ocean,
weaving fishing nets with a gentle smile.
With those words, Kauai’s legendary singer and songwriter Larry Rivera opens “Charlie’s Song,” a tribute to his good friend, Charlie Pereira.
Rivera laughs as he tells a story of how he came to write it.
“He criticized me that I wrote songs for people but never wrote one for him,” Rivera said Friday.
“I wrote ‘Waialeale’ in half an hour. It took me two years to write ‘Charlie’s Song,’” he said.
Uncle Charlie was well pleased with it, and smiled when he heard it.
“Everybody loved him,” Rivera said.
Uncle Charlie, a master throw-net maker known for his kind words and ways and delight at sharing what he knew, passed away Thursday at the age of 90.
He leaves behind a legacy of a man dedicated to his craft, family and friends. He began making fishing nets as a young boy on Kauai and kept at it as the decades past, “keeping alive a Hawaiian tradition that dates back centuries when most people fished to feed their families,” wrote Pamela Varma Brown in a 2014 article about Uncle Charlie titled, “Fishing Nets with Aloha.”
His nets, said his good friend Chucky Boy Chock, were owned by people around the world. They were coveted for their attention to detail and craftsmanship, sewn by a man who loved them.
For years, he gave net-making classes at the Kauai Museum, letting visitors in on what he learned over his lifetime.
“He was passionate about it,” Chock said.
And he had a sense of humor about it, too, as Chock called him “a kick in the pants.”
He charged in the range of $350 for a net, but often let people bargain him down or just gave them away for birthday or wedding gifts.
If someone wanted to buy a net, Chock said, Uncle Charlie “would say stuff like, ‘How much money you have?’”
Whether the answer was $50 or $100, he would say, “OK, you can have the net. Just give me your first catch.”
And they did.
Chock and a few other musicians went to sing for Uncle Charlie at Wilcox Medical Center last week.
He said Uncle Charlie, who was Portuguese, loved Hawaiian music, so they sang several songs for him.
It made him happy.
“He was ready to go home,” Chock said. “He accepted that already. He was getting tired.”
Charlie’s Song is a song we can sing along,
in Moloaa, they all know his name.
Hands are rough and strong, yet so gentle,
he will weave a fishing net for you and me.
Weaving, weaving, hands that God has blessed.
Eugene Punzal, a cultural weaving practitioner who also gives programs at the Kauai Museum, was a good friend of Uncle Charlie’s since their days of working together at Coco Palms some 50 years ago.
“I know he was one of Mrs. Guslander’s (Grace, the owner) favorites,” Punzal said, laughing.
Uncle Charlie was always helpful to everyone. He played Santa Claus, even, and was perfect, Punzal said.
“It seemed like he never had a bad day,” Punzal said. “That transcended to all the people he would talk to.”
“He was always very positive. He would never bring you down. Everybody liked Charlie because of the person he was — he was awesome.”
What also set Uncle Charlie apart, Punzal said, was not that he was a master throw-net maker, but that he could and would teach others how to do it.
Varma Brown wrote that, “By the time Uncle Charlie retired from the Coco Palms Hotel on Kauai — where he was once Employee of the Month — he had sewn 62 nets in 24 years. Now he makes nets at the pace of one per month.”
He said it takes someone special to teach the art of net-making, and Uncle Charlie was that someone.
“People would come and sit in awe. He would engage them, give them a glimpse of old Hawaii and how he used to go fishing.”
“Charlie was amazing. He could teach, engage and make them feel good,” Punzal said.
Charlie’s Song is a song we can sing along
As we look to the sky and the sea.
We are glad we can sing a song to Charlie,
the man who weaves his nets for you and me.
Rivera and Uncle Charlie served in the U.S. Army together in the 1950s and worked together at Coco Palms.
Uncle Charlie worked in maintenance, keeping the grounds beautiful, while Larry was in food service and entertainment, keeping the guests happy.
They were great days, Rivera said, and both men enjoyed them.
“We go back a long ways,” Rivera said. “I’m going to miss him terribly.”
Like Punzal, he said everyone loved Uncle Charlie, “and he loved us.”
“I’m glad to know him,” Rivera said. “He was the world’s best net-maker. He made nets and he was the best. He taught young men how to do the nets. That’s what he did so good. He taught others so much.”
Punzal last saw Uncle Charlie and his daughter Gloria a few months ago, and he called out to them. They chatted briefly, and before he left, Uncle Charlie said, “Punzal, you made my day.”
Punzal said he will treasure that moment.
“He made me feel good,” Punzal said. “That’s the kind of person he was. He made you feel so good.”
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.