By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau
WAIALUA Earlier this month, Thomas Shirai Jr. received a manila envelope mailed to him from Washington, D.C., by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. The envelope contained a plaque and sheet of paper Shirai had sought for years: recognition from the Coast Guard for an act of heroism by David Peahi Keao Jr., his grandfather, more than 60 years before.
It was a sweet moment for Shirai. Although Keao died in 1998 and Shirai had wanted the certificate awarded to his grandfather by a high-ranking officer, it is something that will remain in the family for generations, a reminder of what kind of person his grandfather was.
"I took it upon myself, even after he passed away, to do something about it," said Shirai. "You cannot forget that kind of touching thing. Im proud of my grandfather and what he did."
Shirais family once owned land at Kawaihapai, a land division near Kaena Point, where they farmed taro and fished. On March 16, 1940, Keao and his brother, William, had finished setting lobster nets off Kawaihapai Beach when they heard two soldiers call for help.
Through rough surf and strong currents, Keao brought the soldiers to shore, one from the bottom of a channel in the reef.
In January the next year, Keao was awarded a Silver Lifesaving Medal for the rescue. While the medal is still in the family, the certificate that went with it was lost and Shirai was unable to replace it until Akakas office began assisting last summer.
Keao frequently talked about the incident and it became part of the familys history, said Shirai.
The tale apparently had an effect on Shirai, who feels a strong connection to his grandfather in many ways. In 1984, while serving in the Coast Guard on Lake Michigan, Shirai saved two people from drowning in stormy conditions.
"Grandpa passed away in 1998, 10 days shy of his 85th birthday," said Shirai. "I wanted an admiral to come present the certificate to him. ... But thats all right. We got this."
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