Earl ‘Chief’ Kukahiko touched many lives in West Maui
He is a man who represents the profound qualities of Christian family values, the humility of Hawaiian culture and service to community that have come to define the integrity of Lahaina. The Reverend Earl Kukahiko passed away three weeks ago to take his place alongside Our Heavenly Father, but his legacy here on the West Side of Maui will live on to time eternal.
Earl “Chief” Kukahiko was raised in a Christian ‘ohana and became a minister at the historic Waiola Congregational Church in the heart of Lahaina. He and wife Barbara raised three children – Earle, Glynis and Kory – while working at Lahainaluna High School as the cafeteria manager and campus farm foreman, respectively.
The Kukahikos lived on campus and formed intimate relationships with all on the school grounds – particularly the Boarding Department students in their daily farming and livestock chores. This is where the title of “Chief” came to be, and how this broad-chested man with his bright smile and booming voice became a life endearing mentor to hundreds of impressionable teens.
This remarkable relationship is illuminated succinctly in the life of one Charlie Pickard, who became known as the first four-year “haole” (Caucasian) boarder to graduate from Lahainaluna High School. It was the mid-1960s – a time of racial turmoil on the Mainland, but on the West Side campus, the aloha of Chief Kukahiko formed the dreamscape that would endear Pickard to Lahainaluna forever.
A white-skinned, blond-haired, frail youngster sent to board at Lahainaluna by his military family stationed on Oahu, “Whitey” (not because of physical features but due to his admiration of pro baseball player Whitey Ford) was at first battered and abused by his dark-skinned dormitory mates, but he soon gained their friendship and respect mirrored in Chief Kukahiko’s mentoring of Pickard in their daily routine.
The story of Charlie Pickard’s life and times at Lahainaluna was recently released in a book entitled “My Haole Brother,” written by his brother, Dr. Frank Pickard.
Whitey would only live a few years after graduating, dying of heart failure, but he always referred to his years at Lahainaluna as ” the best years of my life.” Indeed, a sociological phenomenon that manifests the wisdom and virtue of Kukahiko as a parental mentor to so many youngsters on the precipice of emotional maturity.
Kukahiko also helped promote the culture of the Hawaiian outrigger canoe in founding Lahaina Canoe Club back in the 1950s with George Paoa, Chuck Sutherland and others.
The program has prospered throughout the years and inspired generations of West Siders – including the Tihada, Keahi, Kuia, and Delos Reyes families, and so many more – to take part in the revered culture of the canoe.
The retirement years saw the Kukahiko family settle into their compound at Wahikuli. Here they enjoyed the extended ‘ohana of grandchildren and great-grandkids just footsteps from a ballpark and with a view plane to Hanakao’o (Canoe) Beach Park.
The warmth and beauty of the Lahaina Roadstead sunsets seen from their front porch reflected the love manifested in the life of Earl Kukahiko.
Aloha, o’e. (By Walter Chihara)