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The Honolulu Advertiser
Share your condolences for John Kelly Jr.

John Kelly Jr., surf pioneer and activist, died Oct. 3 at age 88. He founded the grassroots ocean-based environmental group Save Our Surf, a movement that was instrumental in preventing offshore development around the Islands and saving 140 surfing sites between Pearl Harbor and Koko Head.

Share your condolences and remembrances here.

[Posted on March 3, 2008 at 3:41 am HST]
Today is John's birthday, I phoned & spoke to his daughter Colleen, who informed me of John's passing. In 1970 I received a book on surfing which he was in, I thought about him for years. I contacted him & went to see him in 2001 where he geeeted me with "hello brother", I spent a week every day speaking with him & his family, swimming at Black Point, listening to his stories about life, surfboards & surfing. When I left I understood, one's soul, & it's connection with aloha for we are all brothers & sisters in this world in the love of aloha. Thankyou John, Marion & family, your soul will live forever in the work you have done & what others will do.
Mark T Anderson
Sydney, Australia

[Posted on December 6, 2007 at 5:51 am HST]
Heartfelt condolences to John's wonderful family and many friends. John walked this earth and surfed the waves in the only way he knew: with passion, care, and the utmost respect. John will be sorely missed by those who had the good fortune to know him personally or by the many good things he accomplished during this time with us.
Jawea Mockabee
Salem, Oregon

[Posted on December 3, 2007 at 12:02 am HST]
When John spoke to me about the history of his family in the 1920s He said that the locals gave his Dad a watermelon with much love and Aloha. That Aloha spirit never left this kind and generous man. It was an honor to have met him.

[Posted on November 19, 2007 at 7:57 am HST]
I only knew John from us passing each other as we went to and from the beach in the afternoons. Well aware of who he was before I finally got the courage to say "hi John", I got a real surprise. That first time we spoke and every time after that was the same : he stopped walking, looked me right in the eyes and flashed the widest and most heartfelt smile and always, always reached for words that were uplifting and positive. He never knew my name but greeted me like a dear old friend. Truly great men are teachers for the rest of us, lead by example, and help us find our way. Aloha John, thanks for everything.
James Farrell

[Posted on October 30, 2007 at 4:36 pm HST]
I remember John from my childhood, as a friend of my parents. He and Marion were larger than life to me, beautiful, adventurous and fun! All the best to you, Marion, Kathy and Colleen. I admire so much the life John lived with you, and his deeply felt activism in defense of Hawai'i. Aloha, Beth
Beth Hyams
Portland, OR

[Posted on October 24, 2007 at 12:51 pm HST]
Really sad to read of the passing of a true gentleman.I got to know John well when I was studying Environmental Economics at UH 1970-1972 and helped him with making a case for "Save our Surf" against the despoilation of surfing sites in Hawaii.In fact in my paper on "The Economic Value of Surfing Sites in Hawaii" I was able to prove that they were, on rational economic criteria, ( equity and effeciency) better to remain untouched than concreted over for marinas etc.I intended to write his autobiography - but the serious illness of my wife has made this impractical - pro tem at least.On my retirement in December 2005 I was able to call on John and his daughter- with my three children.Physically he was in great shape - sadly not his memory - but he will live in ours.Farewell! Terry Morahan
terry morahan
Belfast ,N.Ireland

[Posted on October 16, 2007 at 9:43 pm HST]
God bless the Kelly family!
Sunny Taylor
Laguna Beach, CA

[Posted on October 15, 2007 at 12:28 pm HST]
i would like to give my condolences to the kelly family i never met mr kelly but wow what a cool person my friend use to surf pipline he would talk of mr kelly so cherish those memories some things can go with a blink of eye
sarasota fl

[Posted on October 12, 2007 at 6:51 am HST]
What a great great man. My deepest sympathies to Marion and all his extended ohana. Mahalo to my kupuna,John, for teaching us respect before action and action before loss. Thanks for the direction and the bodysurfing lessions, for the peanutbutter and banana sandwiches, for the printing press instructions, the love of all things Hawaiian, the great stories and unencumbered humor, the research we did together and all the waves we shared, saved and loved. It is an honor to be a ripple in your wake.
Steve "Sippy" Sipman
Ha'iku, Maui

[Posted on October 12, 2007 at 4:41 am HST]
Blessings to you John. Rest in peace our friend.
Cocoa Beach Florida

[Posted on October 12, 2007 at 12:33 am HST]
John Mahalo for the hours you watched over us. We were watching you doing a rock dance and diving into the shallows on your way to bodysurf with dolphins. I treasure times surfing with you. The kids, your crew at Kaikoo Peak and Browns made your eyes sparkled brighter, you smiled wider, you would lean forward with hands on the rails while talking to us. Your body became a tool to describe the fact, idea and event. I remember a fish swimming into your lap and refusing to leave you. It kept returning as though it was being pursued by something. The Hydro, I used it and always wanted it. I printed images that would educate. Your SOS presentation at my school. The powerbase got off its okole to help our culture. It made me feel good that you appreciated our experiences, efforts, style. Aloha
Edmund Pestana

[Posted on October 11, 2007 at 8:01 pm HST]
John Kelly Jr.'s Family and Dear Friends. How fortunate you all are to have share a well lived life with such a gifted and inspirational man. We of the Surf Cultural community are grateful that you had the foresight to save the treasures that document this important life and times. We hope someday you will share them in an exhibit in our Museum. Sincere Condolences, Natalie Kotsch Founder-Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum.
Natalie Kotsch
Huntington Beach

[Posted on October 11, 2007 at 11:22 am HST]
John...Thank you for all that you have done because of your love for the ocean...surfing....the enviorment and people in general.....our prayers go out to your family....mahalo/aloha from an old Lorrin "Whitey" Harrison surfing student.
Alan Carter
Glen Burnie,Md

[Posted on October 10, 2007 at 2:39 pm HST]
He was an unassuming mentor and teacher and despite rumors was apolitical when it came to us grommets. Surf, Aloha and his mana were what I remember. John quietly showed us( Black Point kids) the way and was encouragingly there for some of my firsts. Teaching me to shape at 17 and really listening to what I wanted. Introducing me to the line up at Sunset and sharing his secret to surviving the impact zone. Sowing the seeds of ocean loving, adventure, indivdualism, honor and respect. Mahalo John
MIke Belnap
Sunshine Coast Australia

[Posted on October 10, 2007 at 2:23 pm HST]
Right now we are in the middle of saving a surf spot, and though I didn't have the pleasure of knowing about him until now --just reading the Honolulu Adviser article, His life lends tremendous inspiration to the challenging project we are undertaking. My deepest sympathy goes to those fortunate enough to have him in their lives.
Monique White
Satellite Beach Florida

[Posted on October 10, 2007 at 12:46 pm HST]
I first met Mr. Kelly at a S.O.S meeting in the early seventies when I was in college. The idea of saving our surfing spots was so new during thoses times that not too many people caught on to what he was saying at the very beginning. There was only a handful of people at this meeting yet the passion and commitment he exhibited was something that I'll never forget. He was right, and that idea is more important today because basically, it's all we've got left. This man was the real deal. "Are you living like you talk". Mahalo, Mr Kelly, for showing me the way.
Ken Nomura

[Posted on October 9, 2007 at 2:41 pm HST]
I moved across the road from the Kellys in 1963 when I was 11. I remember the first time I saw John in his garage working on a surfboard. He invited me in to watch and explained in detail what he was doing. That was the beginning of a lifelong education from him in surfboard building, big wave riding, environmentalism, Hawaiian history and, most importantly, Aloha. It was John's hydro surfboard that pioneered "down rails," a flat speed bottom and a graceful raked speed fin. He developed that fin in the early sixties after fondling the dorsal fin of a dolphin. Last night as I walked on Black Point and mourned John, this poem came: On the point, the u'au kani call for you. In the sea, the mano search for their brother. On this shore, tears of fr1ends and family flow into your beloved ocean
Bill Saunders
Black Point, Honolulu

[Posted on October 9, 2007 at 1:41 pm HST]
thank you mr. kelly for the graceful, noble reminder of what it means to love the sea and to stand up for those things we love. eskerrik asko.
c corwin
sf, ca

[Posted on October 9, 2007 at 9:40 am HST]
Thank you John Kelly for everything you did for Hawaii, and my condolences to your family and friends. I wish I would've known you! As a surfboard shaper for many years I was aware of your hydroplane bottom board (which I first saw in a mag when I was a little kid) but I was not initially aware of your other many accomplishments in surfing, music, and especially environmental activism. I had to laugh recently when Sen. Hemmings referred to all of us Superferry protesters as "Luddites". I'll bet you got called a lot of worse names in your life and it didn't slow you down. Name-calling is easy, getting things done is what matters, and that's what you did! Mahalo Nui Loa and congratulations on a life well-lived. Aloha, Andy Johnston
andrew johnston
kalaheo, kauai

[Posted on October 8, 2007 at 9:40 am HST]
I am sorry to hear of John Kelly's death and wish to express my deepest sympathy. It would be difficult to measure the impact he had on the many people's lives he touched as well as the ocean. Please accept my condolences to the family for their loss. -Eugene Cypriano (ginocypriano@gmail.com)
Eugene Cypriano

[Posted on October 7, 2007 at 8:16 am HST]
Aloha and Mahalo Nui John, Although we never met, I'd like to thank you for leaving a path that current and future generations can follow. As one who has has enjoyed the fruits of your labors, I am in your debt. It is obvious that many have learned from you, respect you, and love you. Your spirit lives on. 'Ia manuia le malaga, have a blessed journey,
Kent Fonoimoana

[Posted on October 6, 2007 at 8:26 pm HST]
Aloha John Aloha John and thank you for your life, thank you for all your contributions to the land, the sea, and personally to me and others- as a Senior Surfer role model. I will never forget you. No one will. Ted Gugelyk Honolulu & Phuket, Thailand
Ted Gugelyk
Honolulu & Phuket,Thailand

[Posted on October 6, 2007 at 4:47 am HST]
Never met the guy, never even read about him until seeing today's obituary- but in that short summary of an amazing life I can say a very big "Mahalo" to John Kelly for all he did in support of the salty life, our oceans and the people of Hawaii. Seems like a great man. I hope everyone reading about him today can feel inspired to do something selfless in his name.
Kevin Long
New York City, NY

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 10:48 pm HST]
Dear John, You have been a large and significant influence in my life. I truly feel I received, through the years, so much of my education from you. I vividly remember all the SOS meetings at Kaimuki Library. You were a fountain of knowledge, enthusiasm and fighting spirit. You had a magnificent heart. Your love for people and the ocean poured out of you. You were our leader and teacher. We marched with you, demonstrated, leafletted, testified at hearings with you. We worked hard on the surfing site inventory, the historical surf conference, and on and on. You galvanized all us young people so that we were truly a force to be reckoned with. Then later I worked again with you at Mokauea Island, re- building the fishpond. So many memories! Thank you and the greatest love to you.
Shelley Choy

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 9:22 pm HST]
Aloha, John. It was good being your neighbor and seeing you jump off the rocks with your surfboard all those years at Black Point. You always had a kind expression and always said hi when I passed your driveway to get to the ocean. Take care and see you again in the big surf in the sky!
Eric Bretschneider

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 8:32 pm HST]
John and Marion Kelly were my political mentors during the turbulent '60s. Many times have I been to their Black Point home to broaden and deepen my grasp of their lessons on political activism and the class-based nature of most forms of oppression. While I am currently back in Maine with my nearly 96 year old father, Hawai'i is never far from my mind or heart,having lived there for 36 years with intent to return. When I think of John and Marion, what comes to mind is relentless pursuit of justice, conducting themselves with honor and integrity. I feel honored to be counted among their friends. A firm lesson learned: when people are provided with truthful information, and organized to defend their common interests, they can win. My dear friend, profound mahalo and aloha nui loa.
Jon Olsen
Jefferson, Maine

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 3:43 pm HST]
One of the great pioneers of modern day surfing has departed. All of us who enjoy this lifestyle owe so much to the legacy that these men have provided to us. They are a model to showing humanity how to balance between a dedicated committment to the ocean and our "civilian" lives. He excelled on land as well as in the water. Are these days gone by? Hopefully for mankind the great waves will continue to come and we will persevere to make a positive impact while on this earth.
Mik Lark
Honolulu, Hi

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 2:54 pm HST]
John Kelly could rally people like no one else. It was my privilege to know him through the grass-roots efforts of the Niumalu-Nawiliwili Tenants and leader Stanford Achi on Kaua`i. John and Marion Kelly and many others on O`ahu supported us so faithfully. John's legacy lives on in those who are standing for right process and an EIS FIRST as to the Superferry. My love and sympathy go to his family, and I give a big mahalo to God for the life of John Kelly.
JoAnn Yukimura
Lihu`e, Kaua`i

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 1:43 pm HST]
Aloha Mr. Kelly. I just read the news over the internet and pulled up the Honolulu Advertiser to read about this wonderful individual. We will pray for all family members and friends. My son and I will surf tomorrow morning on a rising swell here on the East Coast and be thinking of you all. God Bless the Kelly family and mahalo John for all you've done for the Hawaiian Islands,waters and people. Peter Kohn
Peter Kohn and family
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 1:28 pm HST]
Kumu John, Mahalo nui loa for your beautiful life-long stoke and commitment - this is true aloha. Say 'hi' to everyone in the line-up on the other - we'll all be joining you eventually.
Allen Kukel
San Diego, CA

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 1:21 pm HST]
The last time I was blessed to spend time with John Kelly was last Aug 25th of 2006. The was the day of the service for his old "hot curl" friend Fran Heath. We all went to the WYC for a short time, sat with Wally Froiseth and then drove back to John's home at Black Point. The day was calm and Kaiko'o was breaking just overhead. Me, Kai Lyons, John's wife Marion, John and their daughter Colleen all sat on the point and watched Fran's ashes put into the sea just about where the two neighbor kids surfed togather as boys in the 30's. It was quite a day. I wish him peace.
Bud Scelsa

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 12:22 pm HST]
One of my greatest life experiences was the day I was invited to visit John in his wonderful home. Starting in his famous basement, to his magical living room, and then to his lanai where he explained in detail the concepts of his hydro surfboards. I was awestruck by his love of life, the sea, his beloved wife and his zeal to make life better for everyone through education and understanding. A true dreamer, believer and waterman. Mahalo John Aloha, Billy Deline
Billy Deline
Laguna Beach, Ca.

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 9:55 am HST]
Michelle K. Amina
waimea,hi./ nanakuli 4th rd.

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 9:43 am HST]
Mr. John Kelly - I wished so much I could of told you this in person but it's okay because I know everytime I saw you swimming you've always known our respect for what you do. Thank you for everything you've done for our beaches and for our surfing community but mostly for being who you are. Although I didn't get to know you but was lucky enough to have met you in my younger days when you said it was okay to park by your house when we surfed Kaiko'os. Your love for the ocean changed many hearts and attitudes towards preserving our beaches. I carry that same love in me. Thank you. Aloha, Tony Abuan
Tony Abuan
Diamond Head

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 8:06 am HST]
It was a pleasure to have known John and Miriam Kelly.I was introduced to them through friends at a Save Our Surf meeting at the Kaimuki library.Such a wise, kind man and such a bright beautiful woman.A great pair. Thank You! Aloha! John Shigemura Hilo
John Shigemura

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 7:47 am HST]
We were introduced to Mr. Kelly in the film Surfing For Life. I was so intrigued with his boogie boarding and it was kind of an inspiration to me and my husband. My husband has a similar health condition and had not surfed since the 80s He did some boogie boarding after seeing John in the film. I am so glad to have this article and his life story. He must have been a very special man. I wish we had known him. Sincerely Louise and Don Wolf
Louise and Don Wolf
Manhattan Beach CA

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 7:17 am HST]
I was privileged to meet John over 40 years ago as a college student attending Manoa and selling surfboards. I met John. He was already known to be as an "Activist". At the time, I had no clue what the term meant. I was working on a Sociology paper at the time for the late Dr. Lind. Being a surfer, I wanted to research the surfer's attitudes towards over development. Of course, this led me to John and Marion inviting me to their home at Black Point to review a pile of papers that might assist me on my project. I went for several visits and consider the Kellys to be my lifelong friends. Open, Respectful, Concerned, and Fun to be with. Today, when I look out at Magic Island, I remember that it was the Kellys who did indeed, "Save Our Surf", then and hopefully forever. Aloha, John
James Ireijo, Attorney
Cool, CA

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 6:59 am HST]
I loved surfing with John at Kaikos. It made me so happy to see him in the water. He was always positive and complemented everybody. I felt so priviledged when he took me and some other Kaikos surfers up to his house to show us his incredible history. This is a huge loss to Hawaii and the ocean community. ALOHA JOHN!
Jon A. Zahaby

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 6:52 am HST]
What a great loss to Hawaii and his family. May God bless you for sharing his life with so many. Aloha nui loa, Margaret (widow of Sonny Kamahele)
Margaret Kamahele
2101 Nuuanu Apt 2007

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 5:52 am HST]
Thank you for your innovative contributions to the world of surfing, you are an important and inspiring piece of history. May the crystal curves be with you forever. Marcel.
Marcel Jonker
Vancouver Canada

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 5:10 am HST]
I am so honored to say that I got to spend many a surf session with Mr. Kelly - as all my friends who grew up surfing Kaiko'os knew him as. As the story mentions, when his physical strength began to waver, I vividly remember seeing him go from surfboard to bodyboard to finally just jumping off the point with just his trunks and a pair of fins to bodysurf. But no matter what he was riding, he always paddled out with a smile on his face and with a story to tell. As surfers, we owe him so much for what he had accomplished in his lifetime. In his later years, he simply showed myself and everyone he shared the lineup with how to truly enjoy life and "live aloha." Mahalo Mr. Kelly
Bobby Higa
Honolulu, HI

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 4:38 am HST]
I never got to meet Mr Kelly, I am thankful for his enduring spirit to save our beaches/surf. I grew up being able to enjoy our beaches, as have my children and grand children. I send my heartfelt condolances to his family and friends. We are in need of more people Like Mr Kelly.

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 3:04 am HST]
John gave me a life altering experience by exposing me to music, art, his love for surfing, and his brave ability to take a stand on an issue, fight for it, and win! At Save Our Surf meetings, wearing his Japanese tabi, plaid shorts, and some print shirt, John taught us how to organize a fight to save a surf site, block the building of a boat harbor, or protect beach access for the public by telling us wonderful stories from his past. He taught us about the "power of the press" and how printed literature could quickly spread the word and educate the people about an issue. He taught us how to address politicians/officials we were going to go up against: use first names only, as we should not "elevate" the "enemy" by using their titles. John's lessons are fundamental to my life! Love you!
Patti Choy
Brooklyn, NY

[Posted on October 5, 2007 at 1:54 am HST]
John Kelly gave a lot to his island home. I thank him now in memory of his leadership of Save Our Surf. When we battled the City over poor wastewater treatment (still a problem), John's organizational talents kicked in and helped get the word out to protect our near coastal waters. I treasure the time I spent in his company. Steve Holmes (former councilmember)
Steve Holmes
Big Island