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A tribute to Sammy Kadotani

By Staff | Oct 29, 2015


Sammy Kadotani was affectionately known as the “mayor of Lahaina,” but that respect came less from politics per se than it did from the fact that his persona exemplified the grassroots kindness and virtuous value system that so represents the collective character of our community.

He never held any political office, but he was a major player for the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Lahaina Hongwanji, Boy Scouts of America and King Kamehameha III Elementary School PGA (“Proud Grandparents Association”).

Uncle Sammy quietly and privately (in a letter to his family, he asked that there be no public announcement and no funeral service for him – humility in the highest) passed away last month at the age of 92, leaving behind his wife, Hatsumi; sons Owen Kadotani and Raymond (Vicky) Kadotani; grandchildren Leah (David) Cornett and Kaylan (Mare) Kadotani; and great-granddaughter Ilima Cornett.

He was the kind of man who always left you with a smiling spirit whenever you met up with him – the kind person that we all admire and aspire to be.

For Sammy Kadotani, the riches in life came not from bank accounts but from the deep value of family, community bonding and the perpetuation of these aloha ethics. He is a billionaire in this regard.

His legacy will stand as one of the prominent volunteers to pay forward the true grit, village value system that thrives here in Lahaina today. If there was a virtuous cause that needed volunteers and funding, go see Uncle Sammy. Ask the LRF, the Boy Scouts, Lahaina Hongwanji or the staff at King Kamehameha III Elementary, and they’ll all tell you, “Sammy is the man.”

And there stands the exquisite beauty of his life, for now we can all be assured that his loving, generous heart will be exponentially passed on to the generations of the future by his family and all of us who were blessed to know him.

That’s what we would expect from the overview of his life: from growing up at Black Rock at Kaanapali, then down to Puamana, going to King Kamehameha III School and then up to Lahainaluna High School, where three generations of Kadotanis studied and the steadfast values of the community are formed. Next up was his adult career in the office at Pioneer Mill and later at the Kaiser Clinic in Lahaina supporting his family, and then his community to his dying day.

I was fortunate enough to see him on a regular basis, as he would be peddling by on a bicycle reminiscent of Dorothy’s from “The Wizard of Oz” with the basket on the handle bars and all and, in more recent years, driving around with his wife in that gold, Maui red dirt, nondescript sedan of his dressed in his standard white T-shirt, khaki shorts and straw hat.

He’d stop and, depending on what sport season was going on, we’d talk up the Lunas. So, no matter if it was football, basketball or wrestling season, Sammy would ask me, “Hey Waltah, we get ’em?” And I’d reply, “Yeah, Uncle Sammy, we get ’em!” I’ll treasure these sweet encounters forever.

So now, Uncle Sammy Kadotani has taken his rightful place in the luxury box up in Heaven with a universe-wide view of his growing family, the Lahaina community and the Lunas. He set a high bar of integrity for life that we are all blessed enough to be able to reach up, touch and feel the glory. Domo arigato gozaimashta, Kadotani Sama. May the Lord’s peace be with you always.