Carmen shared this with us earlier this week:
Uncle John Kekua passed on September 1st. He has done so much for paddling & so much for all of us. Whether you knew him or not, if you paddled, Uncle John touched your life. The loss is immeasurable.
If you didn’t know John, take a look at the Hilo Tribune’s article: Kekua’s legacy as strong as koa.
Gretchen also had this to say:
Craig and Darralyn asked me to write to all Keoua members about this upcoming race and encourage participation.
As most of you know, this race was started by Uncle John Kekua, coach and kumu of Kamehameha Canoe Club, who passed away earlier this month. He was born in Hilo and started paddling in Hilo Bay in 1962 as a 14-year-old, and grew to be a man with boundless aloha and mana. His passion was advocating for youth, through paddling and all of wa’a culture, and over the years he had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of young people.
He started the Kekua Foundation, a Maoli 501c(3), in order to connect young people to the richness of the culture of the koa canoe. It was not just about paddling for him, although he was a talented and competitive paddling coach. But he placed equal importance in immersing oneself in all aspects of canoe-related culture. The kids that he worked with, including a lot of at-risk youth, planted koa trees and learned the pule wa’a, and the older kids assisted with canoe building.
His approach to coaching kids was one of surrounding them with love and aloha. He was a firm believer in the concept that there are no “bad kids,” and put that belief to work every day as he transformed the lives of so many young folks by involving them in the discipline of paddling and embracing them with love.
Uncle John’s spirit of kokua spread beyond the youth – he was tireless in helping others. Building and restoring koa canoes was a passion for him, but he was just as passionate about making sure that canoe clubs from other islands, without access to koa forests, were able to get logs to build canoes. He put a lot of time into the back-breaking work of harvesting appropriate logs and making sure they got to the canoe clubs that needed them.
I could go on and on about him – he was one of my personal heroes, who totally personified what, to me, paddling is all about. Many in our club knew him very well – he and Kurtis especially had a wonderfully close relationship.
As Carmen said in her email that informed us about his passing, Uncle John had a very soft spot in his heart for Keoua Canoe Club. We would like to honor him by enthusiastic participation in the race this Saturday. It looks like we have almost enough for a mixed open iron crew. It would be great to have another crew as well.
If you’re interesting in paddling this weekend, call Gretchen, Kauila, or Craig. Craig is working at a location that is out of cell phone range, but you might be able to connect with him in the evenings. If you don’t have their phone numbers, leave a comment below.