THE LACA CONNECTION CELEBRATES ITS 20TH LAS VEGAS REUNION

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A nostalgic twentieth reunion was celebrated by LACA members, family and friends at the California Hotel on September 26, 2015.  Folks came from all points including but not limited to Michigan, Florida, Missouri and California as well as Lana’i, O’ahu and Maui.  The luncheon began with a stirring Oli Aloha (welcome chant) by Coochie Tanodra Cayan, LACA board secretary and event co-chairman, followed by a daily blessing offered by Kupuna Solidad Obado.  Juan Degamo served as a delightful emcee with a quick repartee and a long memory regarding Lana’i events, folks, and small kid time stories.  Music was provided during lunch by talented musician, Ikaika Brown.  Ikaika hails from Maui and upon request played several Lana’i songs including “Lei Ko’ele.”

A short visual visit to Lana’i made possible with a video clip on the 2015 cultural literacy summer camp for Lana’i High & Elementary School (LHES) students to malama ‘aina at the water source of Maunalei, in restoring the old Keomoku fishpond stone wall, and in hiking up to Lanaihale.  The students produced the resulting video, documented the island’s resources and composed a new Lana’i song with their mentors.  Please note that these current generations of children have never seen the island in pineapple production.  The second video highlighted the history and culture of Lana’i from mythology through ranching then plantation days.  Both videos can be viewed on the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center’s website www.lchc.org  .  Mahalo LCHC for your kokua with the videos!

For twenty years, the Sanches Ohana (Amando, Abondo, Rod, Amadeo, Tony, Dolpho, Susanna) have been attending the annual LACA gathering since its inception.  It became an annual reunion with the siblings and their children.  This year, Tony and his ohana nui attended and continued a festive family tradition.  Mahalo to the Sanches Ohana for 20 years and more of LACA memories!

Special mahalo to Sue Damian and her two nieces, Trudy and Karol for spearheading the LACA Scholarship Silent Auction these many years.  All the winning bids from the silent auction will provide for one of the annual LHES scholarships.

Mr. Tamo Mitsunaga at 93 years old graced the event with a wonderful recollection of living and working on Lana’i in the heyday of the pineapple plantation days.  His daughter Terri also shared a humorous story of the day her Dad was escorted home by the Lana’i police.  Nothing criminal!  You’ll have to hear the story from Terri or someone who was there!

Other shared memories included:

  • Hideko Saruwatari (91 years old) remembered attending Ko’ele School located where the golf course is today.  She said after a rainy night, the red dirt road turned into a stream of red mud with many earthworms and all the barefooted children jumping to avoid them walking to school.
  • Mrs. Eleanor “Sponge” Ozoa shared how they would walk to the school prom held in the gym in their pretty prom dresses as no one had a car to drive.  “Sponge” added her date gave her a gardenia stolen from someone’s garden!  Everyone laughed because she eventually did marry her prom date!
  • Joy Maile Enfield shared her memories of growing up at Kaumalapau – the Harbor camp before they moved up to Haole Camp.  Her dad, John Maile was a well-known hunter and horseman.
  • Aunty Linda “Api” Pascua Degamo shared a favorite hula “My Yellow Ginger Lei” as a makana (gift) to everyone.  Api was part of the famed “Manso” gang of hard working wahine who were unbeatable at breaking the record for the most loads harvested in one day!  We look forward to Aunty Linda’s hana hou hula next year and hopefully with more of her halau ladies.

    Many others shared their personal memories amongst their table as giggles and smiles were in evidence.

    Na Kupuna in attendance were Tamo Mitsunaga, Hideko Saruwatari, Solidad Obado, Juan Tanodra, Sonny Fernandez, Marilyn Fernandez, Suzanne Damian, Bruno Oroyan, Ted Perez, and Claudio Garalde.  They were each honored with a special lei and a table centerpiece.  The table centerpieces were artfully created by LACA board of director and co-chairman of the event, Monica Cockett to represent three areas of Lana’i – the ranch at Ko’ele (a fresh pineapple dressed with a white cowboy hat and adorned with a yellow green lei and a kerchief), the “City” (a wooden pineapple with two yellow kahili), and the “Harbor” (a wooden pineapple adorned with shells and lauhala fishes) – each had a plaque proclaiming “LACA Vegas 20th Reunion, September 26, 2015.”  All of the wooden pineapples and fresh pineapples were donated by Sue Damian.

    Folks also sang Happy Birthday to Kupuna Soledad Obado as she celebrates 90 years of life.  Mahalo to “Ninang” “Grandma” “Mrs. Obado” for her many years of volunteerism and assisting folks in the Lana’i community.

    A bright yellow LACA pen with a flashlight and rubber stylus was placed with each program as a memento of the 20th reunion.  Each attendee was greeted and adorned with a yellow & green ribbon lei.  Mahalo nui loa to member Lori Del Rosario Saffery who created and donated all of the ribbon leis!

    Kudos to Kathy Nemoto and Robert Rodrigues of the California Hotel Catering Department; to Sandy Goes, Executive Secretary; and to David Lebby, Asst. VP at the Executive Office for their years of excellent service and for providing the annual LACA grand prizes.  This year’s grand prize winner was Jerri Hirayama Ebi with a certificate for a five-day stay at the California Hotel and for also winning the second grand prize of a $100 dinner certificate.  The ukulele raffle winner was Sue Damian (her third ukulele in the past 20 years).

    Mahalo nui loa to Jeff Whaley Photography for being the official LACA photographer all these years!

    Many thanks to LHES Athletic Director, Roderick Sumagit for donating Lana’i Athletic  caps and t-shirts to the Silent Auction.  These items were in huge demand and garnered some high bidding at the silent auction table.  We’ll insist on more next year for sale with the LHES Athletic Department.

    Mahalo nui loa to all the past board of directors, to all members, friends and families who attended and created the memories of the past twenty years.  LACA looks forward to twenty more plus years of making memories with the next generations of Lanaians who are starting to attend this yearly event.  See you all next year. Imua Pinelads and Pinelasses!

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