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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 12, 2003

'Pila' Kikuchi, Kaua'i archaeologist, teacher

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — For a comedian, Pila Kikuchi was a darn good archaeologist, and teacher, and ultimately, patient.

William Kenji "Pila" Kikuchi was known as Kaua'i's primary source of history and archeological information. He died of prostate cancer Thursday.

Advertiser library photo

Kikuchi, 68, who died of prostate cancer Thursday, even used his lengthy illness to teach. He and his wife, Dolly, gave talks to nursing students on how to treat cancer patients, and what it was like to be one.

"He felt very strongly about getting checked (for cancer). He would talk about it with anyone. And in four and a half years of suffering, he never grumbled. He never complained," Dolly Kikuchi said.

"Pila had no dark side. He just kind of liked everybody," said his friend and former student Ed Sills.

William Kenji "Pila" Kikuchi was THE archaeologist for Kaua'i — the person other archaeologists consulted before they proceeded to work on the island, and the person residents knew as the island's primary source of history and archaeological information.

"He was the main man of Kaua'i. Every time I would tell somebody I was an archaeologist, they'd say, 'You must know Pila,' " said Gerald Ida, a former student and later colleague.

"He had a special sense of humor, and I thought he was a real good teacher. He had a way of keeping things light so that students could relate to it," Ida said.

"He always had fun at whatever he tried to do," said Nancy McMahon, state archaeologist for Kaua'i.

Kikuchi's early work on Hawaiian fishponds remains the basic statewide source on the subject.

"Anyone who wants to know anything about fishponds goes to his work first," McMahon said.

Kikuchi was a student of renowned Bishop Museum archaeologist Kenneth P. Emory, andcited Emory as his mentor. He worked with Emory on archaeological digs along the Na Pali in the late 1950s, and later led many archaeology projects on Kaua'i, as well as working on projects statewide and in the South Pacific.

"When development started on the island, he was one of the first ones that really pushed that archaeology needed to be done. He saved a lot of historic sites," McMahon said.

Kikuchi and students in the late 1970s rebuilt the coastal heiau between Kiahuna and the Waiohai properties in Po'ipu, only to have it wiped out by Hurricane Iwa in 1982. Kikuchi in his retirement from teaching continued to do archaeology, assisting in a unique project in the Maha'ulepu sinkhole, and developing a plan for the restoration of an inland fishpond at Kapalawai.

Kikuchi taught anthropology at Kaua'i Community College for 26 years, during which time he launched and ran the journal, "Archaeology on Kaua'i." Recently, it has been converted to an electronic journal, "Anthropology and Archaeology on Kaua'i." A Web site featuring Kikuchi's work is available, and still being updated by his associates, at hawaiilink.net/~ems/Pila.

He was awarded a Kaua'i Community College excellence in teaching medal, named a Living Treasure of Kaua'i by the Kaua'i Museum, and received various awards from the Historic Hawai'i Foundation, the state Senate, and the Kaua'i mayor and county council.

Kikuchi is survived by his wife, Delores "Dolly"; daughters, Kristina Kikuchi-Palenapa of O'ahu, Kathleen Kikuchi-Samonte and Michelet Motooka of O'ahu; brother, Bert, of Maui, and a grandchild. Private family services tomorrow; public service to be announced.