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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Iz bust to be dedicated on time

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward O'ahu Writer

Bruddah Iz is coming home.

The bronze bust of Bruddah Iz sculpted by Jan-Michelle Sawyer will be dedicated in Wai'anae next week.

Advertiser library photo

A flurry of 11th-hour donations has covered the balance needed to pay for a bronze bust of the late singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and bring it to the Wai'anae Coast in time for its Sept. 20 dedication.

The contributions included one check from an anonymous donor for the outstanding $8,000 balance of the $20,000 project.

Money left over will be used to start a Bruddah Iz memorial scholarship fund.

Just three days ago, the project was still $8,000 short and it was unclear whether the money could be raised in time for the dedication ceremonies, as detailed in an Advertiser story.

Honolulu City Councilman Mike Gabbard, who has spearheaded fund-raising efforts in recent months, never had any doubts.

"I was confident people here would come through," he said yesterday.

But the outcome was far from certain. With less than two weeks remaining, and thousands of dollars needed to pay the sculptor and finance a pedestal, plaque and other costs, the 200-pound bronze bust remained in a crate at a Berkeley, Calif., foundry.

The project was plagued by setbacks almost from the outset.

Sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer, who divides her time between California and O'ahu, began work on the bust in 2001, figuring the sculpture would take a year to complete and would be paid for with public donations. The Kahanamoku Family Foundation agreed to accept and oversee contributions.

A fund-raising effort generated by radio station KDDB-FM (Da Bomb) in late August 2001 brought in $5,220. That paid for working materials and financed a mail campaign to elicit additional contributions from charitable foundations around the country.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Iz bust project stalled when pledged contributions were diverted to help victims.

Sawyer donated her time and talent in creating the sculpture, valued at $40,000. But before shipping the bronze bust to O'ahu, she said she wanted the $15,000 out-of-pocket money paid for casting.

Gabbard, who in March spearheaded a renewed drive to get the bust to Hawai'i, raised $10,000 from large local businesses.

Approximately $2,000 more poured in after an article about the plight of the stranded bust ran in the Aug. 28 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

But by late last week, the drive was still $8,000 short. Then, as donations from Hawai'i residents began to come in yesterday, Gabbard received a check from an anonymous donor for that exact amount. Gabbard wasn't the only one startled by the turn of events.

"I'm in shock," said Liz Rizzo, Sawyer's agent, who has been involved with the project from the beginning. "It's done."

Rizzo said space for the bust has been reserved on Hawaiian Air Cargo for Tuesday. She and Sawyer will fly to Hawai'i from California the same day to make the 2 p.m. dedication four days later at the Wai'anae Neighborhood Community Center.

Gabbard, who called the local generosity "a gift that keeps giving," is in the process of establishing a Friends of Bruddah Iz Scholarship Fund to handle extra donations.

"The idea is to set up a scholarship fund for worthy students in music," said Gabbard.

"But it would be for a high-school musician to go to college or school of their choice. That's why we're setting up a nonprofit scholarship fund. So it would be something we could present annually."

Among Wai'anae Coast residents, there was excitement at the thought of having the likeness of a favorite son in their midst.

"I would love to pay honor to this man," said Auntie Frenchy DeSoto, who knew Iz well.

"Anybody who's anybody should love this man. This is where he came from. He was a true representative of the people of this island — the soul of aloha."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8038.