LIHU‘E — The first words uttered by former mayor Maryanne Kusaka Wednesday were: “I have never had anything being named after me.”
In a surprise move by the Kaua‘i Museum Board of Trustees, the museum’s new exhibit hall was dedicated Waimakua in honor of Kusaka, who is the current head of the Trustees.
“The big party comes after we get through this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dickie Chang, one of the group of banner carriers arranged by Kaua‘i Museum Executive Director Chucky Boy Chock for the naming of the new hall that is currently hosting the Pa‘u riders exhbit that was unveiled in lieu of the traditional Kamehameha Day pomp. “Chucky Boy said the Board meeting is today, and we’re (Beth Tokioka, Gini Kapali, and Sue Kanoho) going to crash the meeting.”
Dr. Richard Goodale of the Kaua‘i Museum Board said the whole thing was the idea of the board for the years of service Kusaka put forth for the museum and the community.
Born in Kamuela on the Big Island, Kusaka is described as an “American politician, educator, and former Mayor of Kaua‘i from 1994 to 2002.”
Following her political career that ended with a failed race for state Senate, Kusaka joined the Kaua‘i Museum board with one of her projects being the start of the new exhibit hall Waimakua during the time when current Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami was still at the state legislature.
She secured funding of $775,000 from the legislature.
“Once you start, people don’t mind helping if they see things happening,” Kusaka said. “You have to hold hands and plead in the Hawaiian way.”
Significant contributions from the Smithsonian and a private individual, Flora Fujii, spurred the Kaua‘i Museum onward.
“I feel that we have done so much with the current museum leadership,” Kusaka said. “Flora Fujii — she never came to the museum — started everything.”
Waimakua currently houses the Pa‘u riders exhibit created through the efforts of Tim Dela Vega and reliving the pomp and glory of Pa‘u riders that took part in the major Hawaiian cultural events like the recent Kamehameha Day Celebration that featured parades and ho‘olaule‘a.
The Kaua‘i Museum is currently listed on its website as being open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and closed on Sunday.