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Transitions: Sammy and Saltwater

By Staff | Oct 15, 2015


LAHAINA – Sammy Kadotani, the unofficial mayor of Lahaina who frequently could be seen in his last years at events along Front Street or doing weeding at his son’s pineapple arrow on Lahainaluna Road, was both a friend and friend of this column.

After he passed early this month, longtime buddy Bobbie Baraoidan – who went to school with Sammy’s son, Raymond, for 12 years – noted that “he was the greatest mayor Lahaina ever had.” (Lahaina does not have a mayor, but people who are around a lot and live aloha are often given the unofficial title. Kaanapali has had its so-called mayors, too.)

“Sammy was sharp,” Bobbie noted outside the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, where he has served as a valet for many years. “He knew a lot of the history here and was very knowledgeable. He sometimes would bring me chicken hekka.” Last month, Sammy gave Bobbie – a big San Francisco football fan – a Joe Montana shirt.

Sammy was elusive when it came to publicity. In March 2013, I wrote two columns about Sammy, because his life could not fit in one. It was was titled “OK, OK, the man who couldn’t refuse,” referring to a favorite expression and the fact he could not refuse volunteering when anyone asked.

Sammy said a few years ago that he sometimes would hide behind something when he saw me coming, because he knew I would ask about when he would sit down for an interview

The little dog Kea surveys bricks at the smokestack, many sold by the late Sammy Kadotani. PHOTO BY NORM BEZANE.

Sammy finally gave in, and during an interview in his home, he showed me his house filled with mementos of Lahaina, a lot of them relating to golf.

Sammy was a bundle of enthusiasm. Once, he told me how excited he was about raising money for the King Kamehameha III statue at the elementary school. The amazing statue graces the lawn there today.

Another passion in recent years was bricks. Sammy became probably the top brick salesman for Lahaina Restoration Foundation, urging residents to buy one and have it placed in the brickyard behind the restored Pioneer Mill Company Smokestack that LRF worked so hard to preserve and improve.

Also, a year ago or so, it was my idea to revive Sammy’s famous Kaanapali golf tournament as a fundraiser of the new Rotary club. I knew this idea would not fly, because most of the people who would have attended from the old days were no longer on this Earth.

Many will remember Sammy riding around town on his bicycle, even though he was up in years. Undoubtedly, he is now looking down on us, riding his bike past St. Peter to a look down on his beloved town. Just remember, Sammy – keep it in the right gear.

SALTWATER LIVES ON – Will Juergen, who operated Saltwater Signs here for 41 years after migrating from Germany, has met the long-sought goal of selling his business. He said he will now have time to watch football, travel and get to those places on his bucket list.

Will and his company supported many community organizations with donations of signs, including the one on the Front Street lawn of the Lahaina Public Library listing 21 volunteer contractors who made the project possible.

The good news is that the sign company will continue. Mike Comstock (with 30 years of experience in graphic arts and printing) and wife Aoy (pronounced O-E), who has ten years of experience in customer service and sales, will be taking over.

COLUMNIST’S NOTEBOOK: You are reading one of the best columns in the State of Hawaii, according to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Honolulu Chapter. Equally good news: I recently made an appearance on a WGN radio show in Chicago on a station that is heard throughout the Midwest. Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune remarked that my columns featuring the character Kapono Gecko matched those of Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist Mike Royko. It was the best thing to happen during a very good year!