Na Kupuna O Maui to honor Adelaide Sylva on her 100th birthday
LAHAINA – Adelaide Kaiwi Kuamu Sylva is a very distinguished Lahaina lady. She’s 100 years old on Oct. 28 and 100 percent Hawaiian.
How remarkable is that?
The West Side native is a hulu kupuna, a term of affection and pride defined in the Hawaiian dictionary as “the precious few living blood relatives of the grandparent’s generation.”
“Because she is closer to God, she is very special,” Aunty Patty Nishiyama, Na Kupuna O Maui spokesperson, explained, “and Na Kupuna is honoring this extraordinary occasion on Sunday, October 26, under the Banyan Tree on Front Street at the He Hui Arts and Crafts Fair.”
“How can we just let this go?” Nishiyama asked incredulously, “100 percent Hawaiian and 100 years old! We cannot forget this day.”
“I was born in Olowalu in 1914 up by the petroglyph, but I was raised in Lahaina by my grandma and my grandpa, David and Katherine Kuamu,” the centenarian said.
“She was hanai by her grandparents,” eldest daughter Marybud Kobataki commented.
Sylva’s respect and fondness for her grandparents resonates high in her memories.
Aunty has a delicious laugh and a depth to her voice when sharing her mana’o about them.
“I’m not boasting, but grandma and grandpa were educated. They were humble and very nice,” she said.
“They called each other dear,” she recalled.
He attended Lahainaluna, and she went to high school at Maunaolu on the other side.
“Those days, only boys went to Lahainaluna, and girls went to Maunaolu,” Sylva said.
“My grandpa was the road overseer for Lahaina,” she noted.
Aunty Adelaide lives in the family home on family land on Luakini Street. It’s been rebuilt one time.
She attended King Kamehameha III Elementary School.
She met her husband, Frank Ho’oululahui Sylva, at a dance at the Armory Hall on Front Street. He was a man from Waikapu.
They married around 1936. He worked for Pioneer Mill a few years as a watchman, but most remember him as the captain of the Lahaina Fire Department, serving for over four decades.
She was a forelady at the Baldwin Packers pineapple cannery until it closed in the 1950s, and then she transferred to the Maui Land & Pineapple Co. factory in Wailuku.
Together, they had three children. Including Kobataki, there is June Kalepa and Frank W. Sylva Jr. All were born at the Pioneer Hospital located on Front Street at what is now called Lahaina Center.
Their prolific line continues with seven grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
Frank senior passed away at 96 years old in 2007.
Aunty Adelaide has many fond memories, but she shares her “Hawaiian-ness” when she describes one of her favorite experiences.
“Oh yeah, I love my poi,” she said.
“I am Hawaiian; I love my poi,” she said it a second time to confirm her conviction.
Daughter Marybud remembers the dinner setting as a child.
“She loved her poi, breadfruit and taro. Everybody knows that. It was in a big bowl. The old way. Everybody dig into the bowl,” Kobataki remarked.
Aunty still has her poi board and pounder.
“We had the breadfruit trees in the back yard. We used the breadfruit from the back yard and pound poi,” she remembered.
Crystal Smythe shared her mana’o about Aunty Adelaide’s joy.
“She is dearly special and loved,” Smythe said. “Her words, I’ll cherish, ‘Feed me poi, not grass; referring to salads. I like fish and poi!’ “
About five years ago, Kamehameha Schools captured the spirit of Aunty Adelaide in a documentary filmed in Olowalu.
During a ceremony led by Hailama Farden recognizing the esteemed kupuna, the river started to flow.
“The river was all dry for many years, and then folks went up there; and, lo and behold, the water came down. When we stood on the bridge – when we stood on the platform – the water came down,” she said in a hushed, awed recall.
It was a life-searing moment, she said, because the river remembered.
The public is invited to commemorate and honor this lovely Lahaina native this Sunday at Banyan Tree Park with Na Kupuna O Maui. There will be entertainment, food and cake.
For more information, call Aunty Patty at 281-5470.