WAIMEA — Waimea Seniors Club has added a new program to educate members, especially new ones, about Waimea and West Hawaii’s unique living history and cultural diversity. The group of residents 55 and older meets at Lily Yoshimatsu Senior Center weekly for educational and recreational activities.
Seniors moving to Waimea from the mainland and other islands, usually to be close to family, are often unfamiliar with the community.
“Many of our members have come from far and wide, but many of them are from Oahu. A lot of people are moving here because their kids are working here and they live with family members. But they moved into a town and culture they know nothing about,” Pat Lewi said, Waimea Senior Club’s president.
“The dynamics are changing so we started bringing in speakers to share the history of Waimea and the surrounding areas and they have found it so interesting. It makes them appreciate where they live and understand the people and the community,” she added.
One of the first speakers was Billy Bergin, who will be returning to do more talks throughout the year.
“I have members that are part-time residents here from California. After Billy Bergin’s talk, one of them went right to Parker Ranch Store and bought all three volumes of “Loyal to the Land” and Richard Smart’s biography. They were so engrossed in what they were hearing,” Lewi shared.
The island community has a rich history steeped in story that lives on through the words and memories of the kupuna, passed on through the generations with the efforts of storytellers such as Kuulei Keakealani, another guest speaker.
“Kuulei’s presentation began with a panoramic view of the Kohala Mountains and the topography of the hills that are the backdrop of Waimea village. She detailed the significance of each puu and what they represented from ancient Hawaii to present-day Waimea. In between, she related folklore and geographic facts and beliefs about various landmarks. The members responded throughout the presentation with questions and tidbits of their own,” Lewi recalled.
Although Keakealani ran out of time, she will be returning at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to finish her talk. Open exclusively to members, seniors can join the club before or at the time of the talk.
“She left us yearning for more. There is a real desire to learn more about this town’s history,” Lewi said.
Throughout the year, members will be treated to talks on Parker Ranch life and the coastal area known as Kaupulehu.
“For a special excursion we’re going to Kaupulehu, and Kuulei is going to do a special talk about North Kona at the learning center,” Lewi said.
Another guest will be Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) delegate and past state senator, Bobby Lindsey.
“He writes articles in the OHA paper that are fun to read and his human interest stories help spark enthusiasm, so we’ll have him come in to talk about early days in Waimea,” Lewi shared.
Also, Waimea native son, cultural practitioner, musician and composer Kealii Bertelmann will share his stories and music with the seniors.
“We try to bring in people who have contributed in some way to the culture and history of our community,” Lewi said.
In addition to Waimea history, the seniors will travel to historical West Hawaii areas.
“We’re also going to Kona to visit the Kona Living History Farm. We’ll have a guided tour there. We’ll also be going to the Greenwell Museum. They do bread baking and we can see what it was like in the old days,” she added.
On another outing, seniors will travel north.
“We’re going up to Kohala to hear Boyd Bond. When we go up there, we know that’s King Kamehameha country. We’ve already retraced the route where he was born and where he was taken, and now we’re going to carry on with him telling us about Kamehameha and his life,” Lewi said.
Connecting with place and the stories of the land is a way for people to put down roots and connect with each other that perpetuates community aloha.
“I feel it helps to appreciate the town and each other better,” Lewi concluded.
Info or questions: Call Pat Lewi at 885-4307.