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A pardon for Christmas?

By Staff | Dec 18, 2014

Kalei Jaramillo poses with a visitor at the photographer’s request for the cover of his forthcoming book. PHOTO BY NORM BEZANE.

KAANAPALI – When the future Kalei Jaramillo attended court to see her fianc sentenced to serve six years and eight months in prison for dealing drugs, no one expected he would be taken immediately to jail.

And so Guy cried out to the judge, “Marry us!”

The judge asked if anyone objected. No one did. And so she became Mrs. Kalei Jaramillo. The considerate judge asked if anyone had a camera to photograph the newlywed couple. An attorney did and snapped pictures.

Kalei kissed him goodbye, and then he was taken away.

The couple embarked on nearly eight years of separation – he in jail on Maui and then in Arizona (where the state houses some its prisoners), and she in Lahaina carrying out ordinary productive days, all the while thinking of her husband’s absence.

The couple is still waiting for a honeymoon. Every Sunday, the lovely Kalei, a kumu hula (hula teacher), dances at Pastor Laki Ka’ahumanu’s service at Church on the Go in Kaanapali. And there is always a hug for this columnist, who has considered writing about the couple for a long time, in part because an injustice is being done.

Months ago, Kalei accepted an invitation to hug a visitor for a picture for the cover of my new book, “Voices of Aloha Beyond the Beach,” planned for release soon. The visitor did not seem to mind getting that hug.

Kalei noted that she is not very comfortable talking about herself. Both she and her husband have been through many traumas, but they now seem to have overcome them. She prefers that they remain unnamed.

Kalei shares a birthday card that she keeps in her purse from her husband, a talented artist. He drew a beautiful rose on the sheet. Clearly, his message to her – and what she says about him – show they are very much in love.

“He has a good heart,” she volunteered. He believes in God. He’s funny. Once a year, the couple renews their wedding vows – by phone.

Kalei grew up here, graduating from King Kamehameha III Elementary School and Lahainaluna High School, where she was a cheerleader.

More years ago than she can remember, she learned hula from legendary Emma Farden Sharpe (“Voices of Maui,” Dec. 10, 2010).

She once danced when Matson’s flagship cruiser, the Lurline, docked in Lahaina. Kalei now performs dances nearly everywhere – two times a week at Hula Grill, sometimes for the Maui Visitors Bureau at the airport. And she has danced in Japan and Korea, where there are lot of people who love hula.

She is also fond of dancing in the Polynesian and Samoan style and even took up belly dancing once. And if that’s not enough, she has a license and sometimes marries people. She can also dance with fire!

When not working, she pretty much stays home, sometimes enjoying video visits with her husband between trips to Arizona, where she can hold hands with him for as long as eight hours a day during a visit.

What has brought both through these last seven years has been their faith. “I am a spiritual person,” Kalei said. “He is a peaceful man.”

“Every day when I wake up, I think today is the day my husband is going to be released. You do what you have to do.”

He has been away, she states without hesitation, seven years, ten months and four days.

The injustice was handed out by the parole board. Although sentenced to seven years by a Maui judge who heard all the evidence, the parole board extended his sentence to 15 years.

One wonders what they could possibly be thinking, especially because he has become deeply religious, hoping to return to Maui one day to make amends by voluntarily doing community service and helping young people.

Meanwhile, the State of Hawaii continues to pay Arizona to keep him in prison.

Kalei makes a living here through dancing. She gives private hula lessons for pay, sometimes teaching brides how to hula, so they can surprise the grooms at their weddings.

Reading that birthday card brings a tear to the eye. There is a desire to help. For one thing, if anyone wants to contact Kalei, you can e-mail the columnist at norm@mauicommunicators.com.

And if anyone carries weight with the parole system, that would help, too. If anyone wants to treat the couple to real honeymoon when Jaramillo is released, that would be great.

A good friend said Kalei, who he has known for many years, is a wonderful person. Clearly, this couple deserves better.

COLUMNIST’S NOTEBOOK: The columnist has sent a letter to Governor Ige suggesting a pardon. Meanwhile, as you read this column on Thursday or Friday, Jaramillo has been away for seven years, four months and exactly 11 days.

Readers were touched by my last column about our son afflicted with the bipolar disorder. Thanks are in order. The correct web address for his new blog is thebipolaraddict.com.