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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, January 2, 2005

Living aloha, every day

 •  Masa Nakaoka — Ex-boxer let Kalihi youths use gym, free
 •  Michael Keale — His voice is an antidote to stress
Michael Keale singing (RealPlayer required)
 •  Leonardo Delgado — Filipino immigrant befriends homeless
 •  John and Glenna Ann Lind — Couple share their love for 'aina
 •  David and Juanita Schiewek — Couple devoted lives to the deaf
 •  How you can help

By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

While most Hawai'i residents know the meaning of aloha — love, compassion, charity and humility — few genuinely live it, day after day.

We asked Advertiser readers to nominate the heroes in their lives.

Without seeking recognition, they live aloha, working selflessly so that others know a better life.

Our Island Heroes have devoted their lives to Hawai'i's deaf community and transformed taro patches into cultural classrooms. They searched parks and beaches to feed homeless people, even serenaded them in exchange for a simple smile. And they offered guidance to underprivileged youth — in the form of boxing gloves — promising them a hopeful tomorrow.

Masa Nakaoka —  Ex-boxer let Kalihi youths use gym, free

As a child growing up in Palama Settlement, Joe Federico said he had many chances to veer from the straight and narrow. Instead, he ended up training too hard to mess up — at a Kalihi boxing gym.

Masa Nakaoka, 72, has been in the boxing business for 50 years as a boxer, trainer, manager and promoter. He opened a gym in Kalihi that has helped many youngsters, including 14-year-old Boston Salmon of Wai'anae, above, stay off the streets and out of trouble.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It's a rough neighborhood," Federico said. "I found out about this place through my friend and I've been boxing ever since ... that's probably why I got off the streets, because of boxing."

Former Big Island amateur boxer, trainer and manager Masa Nakaoka, 72, established the gym in the early 1980s. Nakaoka and his brother George, 70, opened the facility to the area's youth, many of whom were from Mayor Wright Housing, and never charged a penny.

"I was doing OK as a (painting) contractor, so I had the extra money," said Liliha resident Masa Nakaoka, whose well-toned arms hint of the mighty fighter he used to be. "I was a boxer who came from a poor place, so I thought I'd give back and help the kids."

Many of the kids are like Federico, who met the Nakaokas when he was 12. Federico trained and fought his way up to becoming a Golden Gloves champion. Now 30 and a Marine staff sergeant living in the Pearlridge area, Federico regularly stops by the gym.

Masa Nakaoka, 72, has been in the boxing business for 50 years as a boxer, trainer, manager and promoter of bouts.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Masa and George are great guys," he said. "They're humble and they have good hearts."

The dimly lit facility is an open mezzanine above Masa Nakaoka's painting business, with boxing equipment worn from years of constant blows and sweat. It is home to the Kakaako Boxing Club, which trains boxers for competition. Many club members have become state Junior Olympic and Open champions, including super heavyweight champion Tinei Su'a, 32, of Kahuku.

"A lot of us, we don't make too much money, and he (Masa) just gives everything up for free," said Su'a, as he taped up his fists to work out. "He's a cool guy."

More than that, it's the little things that Masa Nakaoka does for the boxers, like giving trophies to the younger boxers as a way to motivate them, Su'a said.

Bruce Kawano, state Junior Olympic chairman, coaches at the gym and has known Masa Nakaoka for 15 years. Kawano said Nakaoka pays for the gym expenses out of his own pocket — everything from the punching bags to the toilet paper.

More than two decades of generosity has caused some financial strain, and Nakaoka will soon be renting out the facility. Kakaako Boxing Club members hope they'll find another place where they can train for free.

Regardless, Kawano is grateful for Masa Nakaoka's generosity through the years.

"He shows me that money is not the most important thing," Kawano said.

Michael Keale — His voice is an antidote to stress

Feeling under the weather, Belma Muraoka sat quietly clutching her purse and umbrella, waiting to be checked out by a nurse practitioner at Waikiki Health Center's Care-A-Van homeless outreach facility.

Michael Keale, who works with Waikiki Health Center's Care-A-Van outreach service for the homeless, has a singing voice that sounds like that of his first cousin, the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. See video of Michael Keale singing.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Muraoka's dark blue sweatshirt and black pants had been dampened — like her spirits — by an early morning downpour. Then the sweet sound of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" permeated the room, providing some relief.

It was outreach specialist Michael Keale, serenading the health center's clients with his rich, harmonious voice.

"He has a beautiful voice," said Muraoka, 53, listening to the melody with her eyes closed. "This makes me feel good because it relaxes me."

Keale, 50, of Kailua, a tall, dark-haired man with a radiant, easy smile, earned the nickname "The Singing Receptionist" as a staff member at Waikiki Health Center. For nearly two years Keale played his trademark Martin & Co. 'ukulele and sang to patients waiting for appointments at the clinic to "make the time go by a little faster," he said.

Now a full-time outreach specialist for the center's Care-A-Van homeless outreach program, Keale is no longer a receptionist, but he hasn't given up on the singing.

"People are stressed out nowadays, especially because of the homelessness, and they're always looking for some kind of out," Keale said.

He provides homeless clients a brief getaway with his music, which has always been a huge part of his family. Keale's kin includes the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, a first cousin, whom he sounds like, and Keale's uncle, the late Moe Keale.

Beverly Hewett, development assistant at the Waikiki Health Center, praised Keale not only for the joy he has brought to their clients, but for his dedication as a Care-A-Van employee.

"He gives 200 percent to whatever he does, and he's a phenomenal co-worker," Hewett said.

The center's Care-A-Van program brings health and social services to homeless people in parks, beaches or on the streets, through medically equipped and professionally staffed vans.

As an outreach specialist, Keale hands out canned goods to the homeless and signs them up for health insurance, among many other things.

"You never know when you might be in the same position one day," Keale said. "I'm living paycheck-to-paycheck right now, and something drastic can happen to any one of us, so I realized that it's important to help these people."

Leonardo Delgado — Filipino immigrant befriends homeless

Weighed down with a messenger bag stuffed with canned goods and two armloads of gift bags filled with cookies, clothing and toiletries, Leonardo Delgado stood atop the Kapi'olani Park bandstand, scanning for homeless men and women in the area.

Sacred Hearts Academy teacher Leonardo Delgado greets Eucario Gamalo, 63, a homeless man he has befriended, at Kapi'olani Park.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Monday's steady rain meant many of them would be hard to find. But Delgado eventually spotted a few — regulars he has nicknamed "Mister," "Pops" and "Tata" — who had found refuge from the wet weather under the overhang of a concession stand.

"Hey, Tata!" said Delgado in his soft voice, approaching a long-haired man standing beside a covered hand cart. "Merry Christmas! Kumusta?"

Delgado had asked the man, in Tagalog, how he was doing. The two men, who have come to know each other over the past two years, exchanged a handshake. Then Delgado handed him a Christmas gift bag with a sweater and canned goods inside.

"He's a good guy," Eucario Gamalo, 63, said about Delgado. "He's very nice to us."

For nearly seven years, Delgado, 40, of Pearl City, has been visiting homeless people at Kapi'olani Park and Kuhio Beach to hand out canned goods and other necessities. It's a task the Sacred Hearts Academy teacher has taken on by himself, often making the runs before work at 7:15 a.m. or in the afternoons, right after school.

"He's a great teacher, but it's what he does outside of school, too," said Betty White, head of school at Sacred Hearts Academy. "He is one of the most humble people I know."

A Filipino immigrant who moved to Hawai'i in 1995, Delgado knows poverty firsthand.

"I come from a very poor family in the Philippines, and I know what it means to be hungry," he said.

Delgado said it's his Catholic faith, his belief in charity and justice, and compassion that moves him to do what he does.

"I'm amazed that others see an extraordinariness in the ordinary things that I do," he said.

Delgado is also involved in a prison ministry at the Federal Detention Center and in a music ministry at his church, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pearl City. He often organizes volunteers at the Institute for Human Services and Loliana Hale, a transitional homeless shelter.

Delgado does good deeds as a part of his daily life, said Hayley Matson-Mathes, who also works at Sacred Hearts Academy. "He does it without fanfare."

John and Glenna Ann Lind — Couple share their love for 'aina

John and Glenna Ann Lind, both 57, have worked tirelessly for decades to help restore ancient lo'i, or taro patches, in Kipahulu, Maui.

John and Glenna Ann Lind of Kipahulu, Maui, restore ancient lo'i, or taro patches, as part of their work with Kipahulu 'Ohana.

Christie Wilson • The Honolulu Advertiser

Proud of their Native Hawaiian ancestry, they founded Kipahulu 'Ohana in 1995. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to educating residents and visitors about the ways of the ancient Hawaiians through cultural demonstrations and hands-on activities.

John Lind hosts hundreds of visitors each year at Kapahu Farm, one of Kipahulu 'Ohana's projects. They come from schools, preschools and youth groups, including Japan's Gifu University. Young people assigned to community service through the Maui courts are also welcomed on the farm, where the principles of discipline, respect and aloha 'aina are emphasized.

Lind takes students into the lo'i, teaches them how to weed and harvest, and shares the values of the Hawaiian culture, all while getting muddy and having fun, said Scott Crawford, executive director of the grassroots group. Crawford praised the couple for their work with Kapahu Farm.

"(It) has become an inspiring center for cultural education and experience for local youth and families," Crawford said.

The four-acre organic farm — made of nearly 20 taro patches and crops of sugar cane, banana, breadfruit, coconut and kukui — is located within Haleakala National Park and is managed through a cooperative agreement with the nonprofit. Visitors to the farm can tour the ancient patches, learn traditional taro cultivation methods and medicinal uses of various plants, and pound taro root into poi.

"Education is No. 1," said Glenna Ann Lind, affectionately known as "Tweetie."

The area once served as home to thousands of Hawaiians who lived a sustainable life off the fertile land and ocean.

Both Linds are uncomfortable being called "Island Heroes." What they do every day comes from a shared love and respect for the land. "We're sons and daughters of God, trying to create heaven on Earth," John Lind said.

David and Juanita Schiewek — Couple devoted lives to the deaf

David and Juanita Schieweks' faces, lined with wrinkles and graced with knowing eyes, softened as they recalled highlights from more than 35 years of serving Hawai'i's deaf community.

Members of the Hawaii Church for the Deaf in Kapahulu surprise David and Juanita Schiewek with a Christmas gift of a bed spread.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The pastor and his wife, both hearing people, are founders of Hawai'i Church for the Deaf. They wiped away tears while sharing stories about performing marriages and baptisms for the deaf community, watching families within their church grow, and holding "special" Sunday School classes for hearing children of church members.

"I'd say being involved with deaf people, in general, has been the most rewarding thing of all our years of service," said Juanita Schiewek, 63, who is also a full-time registered nurse at the Hawai'i Center for the Deaf and the Blind.

Church members assemble every Sunday in the Schieweks' Kapahulu home-turned-church, where the entire service is done in American Sign Language. The congregation is made up of about 30 adults and 12 children.

"There are deaf adults today who owe their lives to the Schieweks, who took them in when nobody else would and raised them as 'ohana," said Art Frank, 61, of Wai'anae, who became a hearing-impaired adult in the late '70s and early '80s.

Whether it was feeding, counseling or providing a safe haven for those in trouble, or fostering deaf children, the Schieweks have constantly opened their arms to those in need, Frank said.

In the late 1960s, a church the couple attended in Michigan had a deaf group. That sparked David Schiewek's interest in working with the deaf community.

After moving to Hawai'i, the Schieweks held services for the deaf using the First Assembly of God in Makiki as a gathering place. In 1972, services moved to the Schieweks' home.

Although the Schieweks retired from their church responsibilities last month, the couple will continue helping and watching over the people they've come to know and love, aiding new Pastor Samantha Johnson with the transition.

Reach Zenaida Serrano at zserrano@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.

• • •

How you can help

Care-A-Van: 922-4790 or www.waikikihealthcenter.org

Hawai'i Church for the Deaf: 732-0120

Leonardo Delgado: ldelgado@sacredhearts.org

Kakaako Boxing Club: bkawano@aol.com or www.boxinggyms.com/kakaako.htm

Kapahu Farm: (808) 248-8673, ohana@kipahulu.org or www.kipahulu.org