Russell would do it!

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island file

    Russell Haluapo, in yellow Hawai‘i Foodbank shirt, and John Copeland lead the motorcycle riders’ convoy past the Hawai‘i Foodbank van during the May 3 motorcycle food drive at the historic County Bldg.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island file

    Russell Haluapo, in yellow Hawai‘i Foodbank shirt, and John Copeland lead the motorcycle riders’ convoy during the May 3 motorcycle food drive benefitting the Hawai‘i Foodbank, Kaua‘i Branch.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island file

    Paula Rosa congratulates Russell Haluapo on the collection of food and funds benefitting the Hawai‘i Foodbank, Kaua‘i Branch during the May 3 motorcycle food drive at the historic County Building.

There will be a food drive coordinated by the motorcycle riders, Sunday starting at 9 a.m. on the lawn of the historic County Building.

“We should start gathering around 9 a.m.,” said Larry Feinstein, a motorcycle rider. “That’s how Russell Haluapo would do it — whenever, but we’ll be there around 9.”

Haluapo coordinated a food drive, May 3 amid the face mask and social distancing concerns arising from the COVID-19 on the lawn of the historic County Building.

Just days later, Haluapo was dispatched to do the Lord’s work, elsewhere, phone calls and texts starting from May 8.

“This food drive is not a memorial to Russell,” Feinstein said. “The memorial comes later. We just do this because Russell would’ve done this. No single person is in charge, we just do it because that’s how Russell did it.”

Feinstein said motorcycle riders are like knights with a passion for little kids and people who need help.

“Russell was a prince among the knights,” Feinstein said. “He was ali‘i — rough, gruff, and tough.”

But his heart was for people, said Yvette Kurtgis who nominated Haluapo as a Hometown Hero following his passing.

“He spread aloha in the truest sense of the word,” Kurtgis said in her nomination. “He loved Jesus and it showed through his actions. The last time I saw him was in Kapa‘a town just before his death. He parked his motorcycle across from Java Kai and visited with the hot dog lady on the corner. He crossed the street and gave me a big smile while I waited for my coffee. He went inside the shop to talk story with someone else, and as he walked out, I heard him say, ‘Jesus loves you.’ Later, as I headed back home, I saw him visiting with more people on the street. That was Uncle Russell. This island is feeling the loss deeply.”

Fred R. Fennell said Russell’s impact on the island of Kaua‘i touched most of our residents.

“He could be counted on to be part of many charitable efforts,” Fennell said in another nomination for Haluapo’s Hometown Hero status. “Whether it was helping physically challenged people experience the joys of surfing through Kaua‘i Ocean Recreation Experience, helping grant Make-A-Wish wishes at Bethany Hamilton’s Surf Camp, or riding to collect food for the Hawai‘i Food Bank, or Toys for Keiki, Russell would tell everyone he saw or could reach through Facebook in advance.”

Feinstein said Russell did not politicize events — he did it because it needed to be done.

“It’s for the keiki,” Russell said during one of his many Toys for Keiki toy runs over the year. “They don’t care whether it comes from Toys for Tots or the church. They just need.”

Fennell said Russell also did the “quiet things.”

“Setting up and cleaning up were as important to help with as the event itself,” Fennell said. “Distributing meals along the bike path, listening whenever you needed an ear, or providing a helping hand in response to a late-night phone call were daily events in his life. If he overheard a conversation about something that needed to be done, he frequently did it without telling the ones most affected who was responsible, just giving that Russell smile when asked.”

When school supplies became an economic hardship, Russell teamed with Ellsworth Fontes of the Rock &Roll Motorcycle Club to deliver backpacks of school supplies for about a hundred keiki from the Boys &Girls Club, Lihu‘e Clubhouse.

He was part of the Westside Keiki Christmas, partnering with John Copeland, president of Koa Puna Motorcycle Club Kaua‘i and co-rider in the lead position during the May 3 food drive.

“Somebody gotta help these guys save their house,” Russell said, wielding a long-handled shovel during a brush fire that threatened some of the Hawaiian Homes in Anahola a few years ago.

That passage held true during the record-breaking rains four years ago when Russell wielded a chainsaw in the muck of trees being swept down Anahola River that overflowed its banks, working by himself to clear the debris threatening a home.

“Like many of us, Russell went through some rough times in life, and found his way back through God’s grace,” Fennell said. “Like too few of us, sharing his story of that grace and encouraging others to accept it for themselves became Russell’s way of life. A cup of coffee, sitting in the water between good waves, waiting out a rain burst during a motorcycle ride were all a good time for Russell to talk about the difference God made and his hope that he was doing all that God wanted him to.”

Feinstein said the food drive, Sunday is another biker food drive “because that’s what Russell would’ve done.”

“The ride for Russell will not be until some time in August,” Feinstein said. “It will be huge! I am heart broken. He was one of those special people.”

•••

Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

4 Comments
  1. Brenda May 29, 2020 6:08 am Reply

    I only knew Russell for a very short time. My husband and I visited Kauai for 14 years every July and always helped out with KORE when we did visit. Loved his ALOHA spirit and welcoming arms when we saw him. We have now retired and moved to the island as of last June. He will be missed by all but will be watching over us all as we continue his ALOHA spirit around the island of Kauai! RIP Russell!


  2. MICHAEL WEHRLY May 29, 2020 7:28 am Reply

    re: Russell Haluapo


  3. merri May 29, 2020 7:36 am Reply

    Uncle Russell- the person I aspire to be…


  4. Everythingisawesome May 29, 2020 8:52 am Reply

    It’s nice to see people looking normal, and standing next to each other, touching even, as normal people should. Thank you.


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