(most of this information was provided by April Vera Cruz, daughter of Kapeka)
parents of the Kaaialii sisters are James Ahsing Kaaialii (born April
17, 1907 in Waiehu, Maui; son of William Ahsing and Laiewai Nahina.
James died in 1928), and mother, Elizabeth Kapeka Kakalia (born
September 5, 1891 in Nā‘ālehu, Ka'ū, Hawai‘i; daughter of Makaula
Kakalia Kalia (k) and Kaleiopu Kaluaimoku Makaloa (w)). James and
Elizabeth were married on April 17, 1907 in Nā‘ālehu. Kapeka was a
strong and devout member of the LDS Church (Molemona) and her devotion
was recounted by Eric Shumway, President of Brigham Young
University-Lā‘ie, in 2005. Read his touching story here
According to second daughter, Annie, when she was about seven years old, their father,
James, contracted leprosy. Legislation at the time (around 1919)
required that all persons afflicted with leprosy had to be interned at
Kalaupapa, Moloka‘i for treatment and quarantine. Their mother, Kapeka, decided to go with him to Kalaupapa to care for him. At the
time, they had 4 daughters and each was given away to be raised by
others. Alice was placed in an orphanage on O'ahu (what is the name of the orphanage, ‘ohana? and where was it located?
) and Annie was given to the family of Joseph Borges who lived in Kehena, Puna, Hawai‘i, to be raised by them.
There, they lived in a pili grass house and their father, Joseph, raised
taro, which, according to
Annie, they would harvest, load up onto their mule and head to shore
where they would exchange for fish.
The first 5 daughters spoke Hawaiian as their first language (the bottom 2 had limited fluency as adults), but none spoke the language to their children, and therefore, none of the children of these daughters speaks Hawaiian, apart from many words and short phrases that were in common use by English speakers in Hawai‘i while they were growing up.
James and Kapeka gave birth to Rebecca and Harriet in Kalaupapa, Moloka‘i, but had to give them up for adoption elsewhere as children who did not have leprosy were not allowed to live there. James died in Kalaupapa in 1928 and was buried there at the cemetery near the shore. Kapeka remarried William Kaulahao Keahi, another leprosy patient in Kalaupapa, and continued to live in Kalaupapa. She never contracted leprosy and would occasionally take a plane to O‘ahu to visit her daughter, Annie, and her other daughters and relatives. James's gravestone was washed away in a tsunami (year?) and the whereabouts of his grave in Kalaupapa is unkown. William Keahi also died there (year?
) and was buried in Kalaupapa and his gravestone remains to this day. Kapeka and William Keahi adopted (lawe hānai
) a daughter in Kalaupapa, a very young leprosy patient named Kuulei Bell
who, as an adult, became the post master of Kalaupapa and the local historian. You can Google 'Kuulei Bell' and find lots of information about her and her work sharing the history of Kalaupapa. I once visited Kalaupapa in 1995 and Aunty Kuulei met me at the air strip and took me with her on her truck and showed me the house in which she was raised by Kapeka and William as well as William's gravestone. She referred to them as 'Mama' and 'Papa'. As adults, the seven Kaaialii daughters, including Kuulei, reunited and kept in touch often. I remember as a child attending family gatherings with my family and grandparents in Waimānalo with Aunty Alice Kepa and her children and grandchildren. I did not know the other aunties personally apart from Aunty Alice, but other family members of mine, including my parents and some of my older siblings, as well as some of my cousins, remember some of these aunties and have known some of their children and grandchildren.
Kapeka was known to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren (including
myself) as 'Kupuna'. James is referred to by some family members as 'Tūtū Man'. Kupuna is the one who gave me my Hawaiian name,
Keaoopuaokalani (the clouds of heaven). I was in elementary school when Kupuna died, but I remember her well. She was a kind
lady and smiled a lot. She loved her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I remember sitting on the porch of Gramma
Annie's house in Hau'ula, O‘ahu, next to the LDS church, located across the beach on Kamehameha Highway, where she would make my cousins and I
sit while she cut pieces of sugar cane for us to chew on. She ate poi and bread
with every meal and would carry on for hours speaking Hawaiian with
Gramma Annie, my grandfather, Sam, and other relatives. As children, we never knew what they were saying, but we loved them to pieces and always enjoyed being in their presence.
This page is dedicated to the Kaaialii ‘ohana (descendants of the Kaaialii daughters). The ‘ohana met for the first time on Sunday, August 14, 2011, at Kualoa Beach Park on O‘ahu for an all-day gathering. The event was filled with lots of introductions, catching up, surprises (some did not know that some of their best friends for years were actually their cousins!), laughter, reunion 2013 organizing business, family stories, questions about who is who in the family, eating and kani ka pila. The result was that the Kaaialii ‘ohana in attendance decided to meet for a Kaaialii family reunion in 2013. The gathering was an incredible 'chicken skin' event because we all had these looks of amazement when we met each other–many, if not most, for the first time. We were amazed to learn that we were related to such beautiful, awesome people who have these amazing stories to tell about family. We can't wait for the main reunion event in 2013! The details for the reunion will be discussed and planned at a meeting scheduled for November 11, 2011 (location to be determined as of this writing–check out this page over the course of the upcoming months for more details). Among the things planned for the reunion is the gathering of information regarding what happened to each of the daughters when their father and mother relocated to Kalaupapa and gave their daughters away to be raised by others. Here are some questions that need to be answered and it is hoped that the descendants of each of the daughters will help provide information needed:
– Where did each of the daughters go when they were given up by their parents, James and Kapeka (who raised each)?
– What details are there about how difficult it was for each/any of them at the time of the break-up of the ‘ohana and during their upbringing? What are some of their joyful experiences growing up?
– Did the daughters keep in touch with each other as they grew up? If so, how and how often?
– Did the parents keep in touch with their children as they grew up? If so, how and how often?
– We understand that Rebecca and Harriet were born in Kalaupapa but were given up at birth to be raised by others outside of Kalaupapa. Who were they raised by or were they placed in orphanages? What were their lives like growing up?
– Does anyone have a photo of Kapeka's (mother of the Kaaialii daughters) husband, James? If so, please provide me one so that I can include it on this web page.
Eventually, this page will be developed to include the names and photos of the spouses, children, grandchildren, etc. of the Kaaialii daughters and we hope to create and perhaps publish a book on 'The Story of the Kaaialii ‘Ohana' from James and Kapeka, and also including William Kaulahao Keahi and the present generation, with lots of photos (this is my idea, anyway... lol). So, to all of the Kaaialii ‘ohana, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and provide the information requested above and please suggest other ideas for our upcoming family reunion and about what we would like to do as a ‘ohana.It has been suggested that we meet to share genealogy information and organize our genealogy charts. Please post comments on the Ka‘ū, Hawai‘i/Kalawao, Kalaupapa, Moloka‘i Ancestors Facebook group (mahalo nui, April, for setting that up!) to let us know what dates and locations are best for us to meet. This is something that we would like to do multiple times between now and the reunion in 2013.
Ke Akua pū nō me kākou ka nui ‘ohana!