Ted Blake, also known as the “Puakenikeni Lei Man,” is a fixture on Kauai’s south side. Passionate about the history of that region, the current community that is continuing Kauai’s legacy, and about growing the food that keeps them fed; Blake likes to encourage people to get back to their roots. A retired hotel marketing executive, real estate broker and cut flower farmer, Blake now spends his time as a consultant for Koloa Village and Koloa Rum Company and doing community advocacy.
He recently took the time to sit down with The Garden Island newspaper at Plantation Coffee Company, talking story about the importance of history, his reputation as the “Puakenikeni Lei Man,” and his love for Koloa town. Just before the interview started, he gifted the TGI reporter a handmade Puakenikeni lei, wrapped in a ti leaf.
Why do you give puakenikeni leis?
It’s a nice gesture, just Hawaiian-style. It’s not like you gotta do this as part of etiquette. If I no like you, I not going to give you a lei. (He jokes and chuckles)
Who else were blessed to get a lei from you?
Politicians like Andrea Tupola and Tulsi Gabbard.
As a consultant on Kauai, what’s your main job.
Help to provide a seamless integration with the community, keeping them informed of what is occurring presently at each job site, inconveniences on the construction horizon and what to expect in the future. What weʻre doing to minimize the inconvenience. Engage shoppers, individuals and business owners and residents in conversation on a weekly basis discuss what is happening at the various job sites and anything we can do to make Koloa a better place. Look for opportunities to integrate &implement our Koloa-Po‘ipu Area Circulation Plan and find ways to make it work. It is a good plan which our community invested a lot of time, money and energy. The Koloa-Po‘ipu Circulation Plan is community driven and 100% funded by the Koloa community. We focused on connectivity in place of wider streets and intersections. We opted for multi-modal transportation in the town core and resort areas. Work for a daily shuttle with three small buses being used from morning to mid evening. Encourage tourist to ride the shuttle and rent cars only when visiting Koke‘e or Hanalei. Take advantage of Hapa Road/Trail to access the Koloa and Po‘ipu keeping cars off the streets and providing more alternate means of transportation around the Koloa commercial and resort areas.
Tell us a little more. Who is Ted Blake?
Ted Blake is deeply interested in native history, native culture and historical sites. A grandfather concerned about preparing his grandchildren for the future to learn about and respect the environment, their the culture, their kupuna and their gina. I like plants and I am a good farmer, limu-gatherer and cultural practitioner. I am extremely proud to be a resident of Kaua‘i.
What is your passion?
Keeping a positive disposition and staying competent.
How did you become an advocate and historian for Kaua‘i’s history, especially in Koloa?
I was raised this way, but at that time I thought everyone was raised the same way. My parents taught us how to work and work hard doing it the right way the first time. My father’s hobby was farming and we grew acres of tomatoes and watermelon. There was always something to do. When you have a yard with eleven mango trees, two lychee, five oranges, two figs, two jabbing and scattered guava trees and a 2.5-acre yard that had to be mowed three times a month, work became a part of the daily routine. Attending Kamehameha was a breeze because I knew how to work. My classmate and friend was Haunani Trask, my roommate for them years was George Helm. I got a deep, firsthand look at being an activist for Hawaiian rights and culture. Others who had an influence on my life were my classmates and classmates of my older brother.
Learning Koloa and Kaua‘i’s history was automatic. The more I learn the more respect I had for my elders and kupuna. There are not many in the world who were as intelligent as the Hawaiians in every aspect of their life — sustainability and environmentalist whose memory as a people was unmatched in the world.
To have such knowledge without books to keep records is still amazing even today.
Who influenced you to become the man you are today?
My mom, Grace, taught me the value of education and listening to your elders the first time only. My dad taught me leadership skills to look at the problem from all angles before venturing a resolution.
Do you have family of your own, and where are they now?
I have a daughter on Kaua‘i, my oldest daughter and only son on O‘ahu, and three daughters who live Tahiti; three granddaughters and three grandsons.
What would you like Kaua‘i’s keiki to learn about their ‘aina the most?
Take what you need for two days with an eye on tomorrow. Next time take for two days again. Learn how to interact with and respect the world you live in. Look to your kupuna to learn ‘aina momona and the practice of malama i ‘aina. If our kupuna could survive without Costco, so can we.
Why are you passionate about preserving the Hawaiian language?
Hawaiian language is descriptive as it is. Hawaiians write beautifully using metaphors. You have to read it a few times to get the intended meaning. Hawaiians write descriptively, telling how it actually happened, if the wind was blowing and what wind it was, etc.
When you are not advocating or teaching, what do you do on your free time?
I like to read and work with my plants.
Stephanie Shinno, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.