Neizman Family honored with Living Legend Award
LAHAINA – On Saturday night (April 14) at the 46th annual Sacred Hearts Bazaar in downtown historic Lahaina, the Living Legend Award honored for the first time not one but six people – the remaining siblings of the Neizman ‘ohana of Mala, including Gilbert Neizman, Frances M. Rickard, James “Kimo” Neizman, Puanani Felicilda, Emily Michel and Randall Neizman.
With the exception of Gilbert, five of the six still live on the West Side.
According to one of the event organizers, Joanna Stockham, members of the family would not stand-alone on the stage; they considered the commendation a group achievement.
That’s just how they are.
“This family is so beautiful, so hard working, so faithful and so HUMBLE,” Stockham observed.
Originally a force of 14, eight brothers and six sisters of Hawaiian and Austrian-German heritage, their commitment to ‘ohana, Sacred Hearts School and Maria Lanakila Church is based on their devout faith; and, if you ask anyone of them, to the mom, Minnie Keahi Neizman (1911-1986).
Her children described her character as “soft-spoken, soft hearted and so kind.”
“She was such a peaceful, loving mom. She was soft in all ways. She loved everyone of us equally,” Frances recalled affectionately.
Randall has a special memory:
“My mom had the sweetest voice. My mom used to play left-handed guitar, and she used to play Hawaiian slack key. Her voice was really, really high, and nobody could match her voice. She so sweet.”
The dad was Peter Neizman (1903-1983), originally from Kauai. Both Peter and Minnie were responsible for instilling a strong work ethic in their heirs.
“Our family, we have a big family, but everyone was hard worker. Everybody worked. Nobody stayed home and lean on the others. Everybody worked, ’cause our mom worked. Even when she had us, she used to work at the old Baldwin Packers at Cannery,”said Puanani.
Their Plantation-style, four-bedroom home was on the mauka side of Front Street, now across from Lahaina Roads.
“You can see the clothes line full with clothes every day,” Puanani wistfully envisioned.
Their lives ran like a well-oiled machine.
“We all work together. We all work. We all help. The boys always had to do the yard, and the girls do the inside of the house,” Puanani remembered.
Peter worked at the Pioneer Mill by day and fished after work.
“When my dad get home, the yard have to be clean and stuff; and, by 4:30, we launching the boat,” Randall, the youngest, told the Lahaina News.
“After you catch the fish,” Randall continued, “you gotta come home and clean the fish, get the different fish separated. We go to the Filipino camps and sell the fish. We had Kishi Market. We had Nagasako Market and Kawaguchi Market would buy our catch. That money kept the family alive.”
The Neizman 14 attended Sacred Hearts School. Minnie was a member of the Sacred Hearts Society, and church was a “must on Sundays,” Randall advised.
There has been a Neizman presence on campus for over 70 years.
Puanani retired her position in the cafeteria after 20 years, and Emily is still cleaning classrooms.
“Before I worked there, we were doing the bazaar already. We were all volunteers, because our children were there, our grandchildren were there; so we were always there. We were parishioners. We go and help and make money for the school, because all our nuns were still there. So go volunteer, make the school survive,” Puanani said.
Although no longer behind a booth, Kimo said, “Now we just go to the bazaar. We support, buy food, play games and join the auction fun.”
Their voices can be heard on Sundays as choir members.
Remember the “Aloha” carved out of the grass on the south side of the front lawn next to Blessed Mother statue?
For years, that was Kimo’s work along with his contribution of flowers for the chapel each Sunday.
With a small plot given to him and his wife, Joy, Kimo is also responsible for the “cremation burials” in the graveyard under the large pink plumeria tree.
The Neizmans believe in the Hawaiian value of ‘ohana. It is integral to their happiness and success.
“Families stick together,” Puanani said.
“I really love my family. Each time that we lose one, it is so hard,” she confided. “Six left out of 14, so we lost eight siblings. We love them, and they have children; and we try to make sure the children keep in touch with us. Even if the mom is gone or the dad, they are still our family.”
The Neizman siblings no longer with us are Peter, Danny, Eddie, Jacob, Francis, Ewa, June and Roselani.