Dancing with the stars in Kalaupapa

She was dressed in a magnificent Native American costume topped off by the colorful feathered head adornment of a proud chieftain of her tribe. Joined by another similarly attired chieftain and other colorfully dressed participants, she danced the most original tribal dance I have ever witnessed. It was part Native American, part Hawaiian, part Samoan, part South Pacific, and God only knows whatever else. She had everyone in the hall in fits of laughter (or pain). It was no wonder then that Jasmine (better known as Jazz) was given the prize as the “Funniest” at this year’s Halloween party at McVeigh Hall.

Jazz is one of our devoted chefs who cook for our resident patients at the Kalaupapa Care Home. She also moonlights as a musician. She typifies the dynamic spirit of our Kalaupapa workers who not only do their jobs and fulfill their duties but also try to the best of their abilities to lift the spirits of our residents by entertaining in their own special and unique ways. Since I myself did not don a Halloween costume this year but rather wore an autographed shirt of Hawaiian comedian, Frank De Lima, I was asked to be a judge for the contest (what a joke!) as was “Bishop” Meli Watanuki. After some deliberations, while the audience quieted down, we called on Tiare who works in the administration office as the “Scariest.” In truth her facial mask would have scared the devil himself. Then, after some further deliberation, we hailed Zianna who oversees our settlement store as the most “Original.” It was well-deserved.

This annual fun night was sponsored by our local Congregational Church which provides not only a delicious dinner but also generous prizes (No, I did not get one). For many years past our dearly departed friend, Edwin “Pali” Lelepali ran the whole evening celebration. Now we miss him very much but his jovial spirit lives on in our midst and we will never forget his good-natured antics. Noticing that it was time for a sober judge to go home, I left the party at a reasonably early hour this night while the celebration continued for some until midnight. It was appropriate to celebrate with fellow workers and to dance with the stars — under the Kalaupapa stars. Aloha.

Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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