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Sammy Kadotani’s vision comes to life at King Kamehameha III Elementary School

By Staff | May 22, 2014

Artist Christine Turnbull wanted the king’s face to be approachable, so the young school children will feel comfortable.

LAHAINA – For the past seven years, at seemingly every King Kamehameha III Elementary School meeting, Sammy Kadotani would stand and hold up a picture.

It was a photo of the school’s namesake, King Kamehameha III (Keaweawe’ula Kiwala’o Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa), and a reminder to all of Kadotani’s vision to have a statue of the second son of Kamehameha the Great on campus.

Principal Steve Franz called the long campaign “Sammy and the Statue.” It came to a joyous conclusion last week Friday, when the historic Front Street school unveiled sculptor Christine Turnbull’s bronze statue of the king.

“This day celebrates the end of a long journey,” said Franz. “Sammy’s vision is coming through today.”

Turnbull said she created the statue during a seven- to eight-month period from one of three recognized images of King Kamehameha III.

Sammy Kadotani and Christine Turnbull unveil the new statue.

The king took the throne at the age of ten – the same age as fifth-graders at the school – but a school committee decided to portray him as an adult, during the time of his greatest achievements.

The statue of the king – a bust atop a stone pedestal with plaques – faces the West Maui Mountains, guarding the school.

Turnbull said she was very honored to shape the statue. She credited mentor Anna Good for helping her learn the art form.

In 2007, when the school opened a 50-year time capsule from 1957, lifelong Lahaina resident Kadotani began prodding the administration to start preparing for the school’s 100th anniversary this school year.

According to Franz, Kadotani said, “I think we need to have a statue in front of the school.” Pulling out the picture of the king that Kadotani carried with him, Franz added, “get this guy out front!”

The school considered a full-size sculpture or interactive piece with multiple people, but the cost would have been too high.

Once the artist was selected, Kadotani sought some $14,000 in donations for the statue project.

Clifton Akiyama assisted with the pedestal, Kimo Clark of Truth Excavation helped with a new sidewalk, Orrin Cross of Hula Grill assisted with cement, and Theo Morrison and Lahaina Restoration Foundation provided plaques that will educate residents and visitors about the school and king. In all, around 20 businesses and organizations supported the project, Kadotani said.

Mike Moore of Hoaloha Na Eha provided refreshments for Friday’s ceremony.

Franz noted that King Kamehameha III was born in 1814, 200 years ago, and lived in Lahaina for much of his life.

The king’s legacy includes, in 1840, creating free public schools in Hawaii and requiring all children to attend.

King Kamehameha III lived right on the grounds where the school is located, Franz said. It became the site for the Lahaina Public School, which the Territory of Hawaii in 1913 named Kamehameha III School in recognition of the king’s many contributions to Hawaii. In the 1980s, the word “King” was added to the title.

Franz said the school is happy to celebrate 100 years of service to the Lahaina community this school year (see the related article on page 14).

The anniversary is also an opportunity to teach the school community about the king and his legacy.

The persistent Kadotani also raised enough money to provide a 100th anniversary T-shirt to all 830 students to keep as a souvenir.