‘Safe resting places’ blessed

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kumu Aletha Kaohi, right, gets help from her granddaughter Wailenalena Kaohi in lighting the Eternal Light Sunday during the blessing of the 128-niche columbarium at the Japanese section of the Waimea United Church of Christ.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kumu Aletha Kaohi talks about the Japanese section of the cemetery Sunday during the blessing of the 128-niche columbarium at Waimea United Church of Christ.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kumu Aletha Kaohi gets help from Rodney Soares Sunday in placing the ti-leaf lei above the entrance to the columbarium where the 128-niche addition was blessed at the Waimea United Church of Christ cemetery.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea United Church of Christ parishioners complete the blessing of the 128-niche columbarium by placing “graveyard flowers” along its path Sunday during the blessing of the addition to the Japanese section of the church’s cemetery.

WAIMEA — Sunday was observed as Grandparents Day, and Aletha Kaohi lit the Eternal Light to honor all of those occupying the Waimea United Church of Christ cemetery.

Kaohi, whose family occupies a portion of the cemetery through a family plot award, officiated over the blessing of the recently completed, 128-niche columbarium located in the Japanese section of the Waimea United Church of Christ, also known as the foreign church.

“Sept. 12 is Grandparents Day, and has been scheduled for a blessing of the new additional niches,” said Teri Sakai, the Waimea UCC Cemetery Chair.

“Our Waimea UCC cemetery and columbarium areas have been undergoing many facelifting and improvement projects. Most recently, the existing columbarium area was expanded to include 128 additional niches outside of the existing building. These four walls containing the new niches are hopefully prepared to meet the needs of our community for years to come.”

Kaohi took the time in the short service that was restricted in attendance due to current COVID-19 safety and health restrictions to explain the cultural differences in ethnic groups and cemeteries, and why the columbarium has significance in the church’s cemetery.

“The Native Hawaiians had an interest in preserving bones,” Kaohi said. “They have a section in the cemetery that was added to when the Japanese and other cultures started arriving in Hawai‘i. The Japanese have a culture where the eldest son cares for the elderly. These survivors may be Christian, while the parents they cared for are not. The church agreed to accept these parents. This is why, among the grave sites, there are also Buddhist graves. The cemetery is a place for the living who seek a safe resting place for their family.”

The Rev. Olaf Hoekmann-Percival, Waimea UCC pastor, said the road leading to the Sunday dedication was a long one filled with obstacles that needed to be overcome.

“I got here in 2005,” Hoekmann-Percival said. “In 2006, the church hired an architect to draft a master plan that took the cemetery improvements into consideration. But over the years, there were detours to having any work done until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. We had to move irrigation lines to accommodate the new cases, and there was no 1-inch PVC pipes to be found anywhere. Luckily, someone tending to a grave found a piece of PVC pipe in the section where discarded flowers are thrown.”

Similar incidents took place during the preparation for the niche cases that are located outside the existing columbarium building containing 70 niches that are “fully occupied.”

“Do you know how hard it was to ship anything from China during the pandemic?” Hoekmann-Percival asked. “The cases are made in China, and even after getting here, there were problems like the approaching tropical storm. Luckily, there was a crane nearby, and with just a four-hour window before the storm hit, the cases were put in before the heavens opened up and cleaned everything.”

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

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