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West Maui community to remember Earl ‘Chief’ Kukahiko on Saturday

By Staff | Jun 27, 2019

Services for Earl Ray Kanakaonae Kukahiko will be held on Saturday at Waiola Church.

LAHAINA – Historic Waiola Church is sure to be overflowing on Saturday, June 29, when the West Maui community bids farewell to Earl Ray Kanakaonae Kukahiko.

Kukahiko passed away at home on May 25, 2019. He was 88.

Open to the public, viewing will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the service at noon and a pa’ina at Hale Halawai at the 535 Wainee St. church where Kukahiko served as kahu.

His son, Earle, said lots of “old-time” Lahainaluna High School boarders have called or stopped by the house to visit, wanting to know the details of the service and sharing touching stories about his late father.

The sixth of nine children, Earl was born on Dec. 16, 1930 to Rev. John and Daisy Kukahiko in Honokohua.

He attended Honokohua School and then enrolled as a boarder at Lahainaluna High School.

During his high school days, Earl and the other boarders worked hard to maintain the campus and thriving farm.

As a boarder, Earl was the farm truck driver and later became its farm foreman until he graduated in 1948.

Upon graduation, Principal Alton Rogers hired Earl as farm foreman – affectionately earning the nickname “Chief” – where he worked before retiring with 33 years of service for the Hawaii Department of Education.

Known for his broad grin and powerful voice, Earl was an important mentor to the boarding students at Lahainaluna.

The Lahainaluna High School Foundation, when it honored Earl as a “Legend of Lahainaluna” in 2013, noted, “He was a father figure to so many boarders during his tenure at Lahainaluna. He was also their mentor and counselor.

“Chief always believed that every boarder needed to do well in school; it was his job to help teach them how to work on the farm and how to work collegially with their fellow boarders. Many feel a debt of gratitude for the guidance they received and to a person hold Chief and his family with deep respect.”

Earle said his late dad was a father figure to many 14- to 18-year-olds who braved leaving the comforts of home to board at Lahainaluna and work at its impressive farm that included livestock, a bountiful garden and orchard.

Recognizing his role in the community, Aunty Patty Nishiyama said, “Na Kupuna O Maui would like to honor Uncle Earl Kukahiko as a father and teacher to the Boarding Department.”

Earle expects students whose lives were touched by his dad will share stories on Saturday.

Rev. John Kukahiko, an ordained Hawaiian minister, preached in Kaanapali, Honolua and Olowalu. Chief followed in his dad’s footsteps and earned his ordination.

Kahu Earl served at Waiola Church as licensed lay minister for almost 20 years, retiring in March 2012.

It was another important role in the West Maui community, with Earl leading the Waiola Church ‘ohana and meeting many others through blessings, weddings and funerals.

According to his family, some of his accomplishments include serving in the U.S. Army National Guard, helping to rejuvenate and organize Hawaiian canoe racing on Maui and teaching ukulele and performing at numerous events with Kaunoa seniors.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Barbara Michiko; three children, Earle (Teresa), Glynis and Kory (Sandy); one hanai daughter, Anela; five grandchildren, Keneke (Lei), Kaleka (William), Wilson Mahele, Shelton and Eala; and two great-grandchildren, Keiji Kanaka and Kairee Akemi. He was predeceased by his daughter Barbie.