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Aunty Adeline Rodrigues has deep roots in Olowalu and Ukumehame

By Staff | Mar 3, 2016

Aunty Adeline (Addie) Rodrigues stands at the ruins of the old Olowalu Church. The Olowalu Lanakila Hawaiian Church is located next door.

OLOWALU – “He hulu makua.” “When most of the relatives of the parents’ generation were gone, the few left were referred to as hulu makua and considered as precious and choice as feathers.”

This proverb (601) in the “‘Olelo No’eau, Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings” by Mary Kawena Pukui describes the essence of 86-year-old Hawaiian kupuna Aunty Adeline (Addie) Rodrigues from Ukumehame-Olowalu. She is as treasured as a yellow cape feather.

She was born in 1929 Adeline Kamaileolihau Kaahui in Kapaiki, Olowalu, in the former Olowalu School teacher’s cottage, a building still standing today, renovated into a private residence.

The Kapaiki neighborhood abuts Olowalu Town on the south side; residences there are on a mostly unpaved gravelly-dirt road.

In an interview with the petite elder at her home, she was a strong presence.

“Olowalu Valley,” she said, “the mountain on the left is called Lihau. I am named for the maile that grows on that Lihau mountain.”

She is proud of her heritage.

“My mother was half Japanese/half Hawaiian, and my dad was pure Hawaiian; I am one-fourth Japanese and three-quarters Hawaiian,” she noted.

Her son, V.R. Hinano Rodrigues, with the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, was eloquent in the citation of his genealogy at a Maui County Council Planning Committee Meeting held in 2010, and it was captured in the minutes.

“I am a direct linear descendent of Chief Kamakakehau, konohiki in Ukumehame. His daughter Kauakahiakua married Kealoi and had a daughter, Haehaea. Haehaea married Kaaea, who had a daughter Kemamo, who then married Junsaburo Fujishiro. They had a daughter, Louise Leialoha, who married John Hoolulu Kaahui. They had a daughter Kamaileolihau (Adeline), who married Vincent Rodrigues Jr. I am the result of that union. For the record, my grandparents were third cousins. That fact is important, because it further solidifies my lineal genealogical ties to Olowalu and Ukumehame.”

“Ukumehame on my dad’s side, we can go back four or five generations; we can go back to 1600s,” Aunty observed.

“My mom and dad were born in Ukumehame.”

“We moved here in Olowalu ’cause William Hoopii hanai’d my dad when he was 11 years old and brought him here.”

Hoopii graduated from Lahainaluna Seminary School in 1900. He taught at the Olowalu School after a short stint at the Post Office Department.

After her parents’ marriage, she said, “My dad was working for Kahului Railroad. He would go to work in Kahului; come back to Olowalu every day. He would ride that old Pali highway,” she recalled.

“In 1931, I think,” she continued, “Kahului Railroad built homes for their employees, so we moved to Kahului,” where she was raised and schooled and where the remainder of her siblings were born.

Being the eldest of 11 wasn’t an easy job, Aunty told the Lahaina News.

“I’ve been working all my life,” she said, starting when she was eight years old, tending her younger siblings.

“She was almost like my mom; we had a lot of children. She was always there for me actually,” her younger sister, Connie (Kaahui) Applegate, affirmed.

Adeline went to work at the Kahului Maui Pineapple Company in her teens.

“When you’re 16 years old, your parents sent you to work. You have to go to work from age 16, so I worked at the Kahului Maui Pineapple Company,” she explained.

That didn’t stop her from achieving her educational goals.

She attended Kahului School and Baldwin High School, graduating with the Class of 1947. For one year, she went to Phillips Commercial School on Oahu and studied business.

Returning home, not long after, she met her future husband, Vincent Ernest Rodrigues Jr. During their courtship, they jitterbugged across the island to the sounds of the Molina Brothers Orchestra in Paia, Hali’imaile, Lahaina and Wailuku.

“He was born in Lahaina; he was half Japanese and half Portuguese,” she said.

They married in 1952 and lived in Wailuku with his parents; in five years, they had five children.

Adeline’s career didn’t slow down one bit. She worked as a kindergarten teacher at Kahului Union Church for a few years, and then worked at the Kahului Maui Pineapple Cannery.

“I worked myself up from trimming packing all sorts of jobs; and then I gave tours, tours for the visitors. I ended up working in the personnel office as a clerk, and I retired from there after almost 40 years. I retired in 1991. I worked a long, long time,” she said.

She and her husband retired to Kapaiki in 1970 and lived in the home they built in the late 1960s on the land she inherited from her lanai grandfather, William Hoopii.

After 62 years of marriage, she lost her soul mate in 2014.

Although she spent her formative, child-bearing/raising and career years on the other side, Aunty Addie has always called Olowalu her home.

“I love this place. I lived here 86 years of my life. Who can say that? Eighty-six years to live in a place like this. Sure I lived in Kahului, I grew up there; I went to school. But weekends, holidays were here. We all had to come home; we had to come to church on Sundays,” she said.

Although she continues cultivation of the family lo’i (taro patches) in Ukumehame, church has been the one constant in her life.

There was a brief time in the recent past when the church doors in Olowalu were mostly closed, but the history of the Olowalu Church is another story altogether. (Photographs of the old stone building are filed in the Library of Congress.)

In any case, it reopened again in 1994 when Rev. Kekapa Lee (formerly of Waiola Church) called the family matriarch and asked her to be the church leader.

The church was renamed the Olowalu Lanakila Hawaiian Church.

The services are small – mostly a family affair – but the assembly gathers at 9 a.m.

Aunty opens and closes the services – has been for the past 20 plus years – plays the ukulele and shares the pulpit with her children and grandchildren.

After church, the ‘ohana heads to her home, where she makes breakfast for them all; it’s tradition.

In a blink, Olowalu-Ukumehame can be passed by, but the rich heritage cannot. It shines through the Rodrigues-Kaahui ‘ohana, the Olowalu Lanakila Hawaiian Church and in the lo’i still being cultivated in Ukumehame.