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Community loses Robert Kawahara

By Staff | Feb 4, 2010


Robert Masaaki Kawahara represented the old guard of Mauians that prized family and community above all else. He came from a generation of Lahaina residents whose purpose in life rested in the values of hard work and dedication to loved ones, as well as a commitment to service to the community and to his country.

Uncle Bobby passed away at Hale Makua on Jan. 20, 2010, as quietly as he lived his 80 years on Maui. He leaves behind his wife, Helen Kawahara; a son, Darren (Wanette) Kawahara; a brother, Melvin Kawahara; a sister, Sumako Masusako; and two grandchildren, Isaiah Kawahara and Rebecca Nahinu.

A shy, soft-spoken man, Bob Kawahara provided for his family through his employment with the Maui County Refuse Department and also at the old Nagasako Supermarket at Old Lahaina Center. He also served his country in combat duty with the U.S. Army in the Korean War.

Our family came to know the Kawahara ‘ohana some 25 years ago, when we moved into the Kuhua Camp neighborhood a couple of doors down the street from them. Although Uncle Bobby rarely spoke to us throughout those years, he always had a pleasant greeting as we passed by his driveway two, three, even four times each day and expressed a welcoming feeling to us from the beginning.

He made our kids feel special when we shopped at Nagasako’s by coming around from the fish counter and slipping them each a couple of bucks for candy and toys. (I found out in grandson Isaiah’s eulogy at the funeral service last week that the elder Kawahara did this for all of the kids!) At Halloween, there was always a light on and candy passed out to all comers, and you could always count on the Kawahara family to support the seemingly endless fund-raising efforts for the kids’ sports teams.

Moreover, as we’ve come to learn over the years living here, this plantation generation, including the Kawaharas, prided themselves on keeping a clean and tidy homestead. Trees are trimmed, the yard is well groomed and the laundry drying in the Lahaina sun manifested that old guard of frugal, family living.

Uncle Bob drove a primer-colored ’83 Pontiac or something like that, and I always marveled that the car was still alive in the 21st century. We’d see him and his wife driving down the road and around the shopping center all the time, and it was another charming point of remembrance in grandson Isaiah’s eulogy.

“I was always shame about riding to school in grandpa’s car,” Isaiah recalled. “I would slip down in the seat so no one would see me, and I would have grandpa drop me off a block away from school and I would walk the rest of the way. But now, that car is a fond memory of grandpa for me.”

Indeed, all of these things become fond memories for all who knew him, and, moreover, they become the solid gold template with which we neighbors can navigate life through this techno crazed world we live in today. Hard work, love of family and little ones, self-sacrifice and generosity equaled happiness for Bob Kawahara. Thank you for the life lessons, Uncle Bob, may God bless you always.