The HONOLULU 100 – Eddie Aikau to Winona Beamer

Eddie Aikau (1946-1978)

On March 16, 1978, the Hokule’a set sail for Tahiti, two years after its maiden voyage. When the traditional Hawaiian canoe capsized in the Moloka’i Channel, crewmember Eddie Aikau decided to paddle his surfboard to Lana’i for help, never to be seen again.

Although his sacrifice that day has since become the stuff of legend, those who knew him best say his actions were second nature. He’d gained a reputation as a fearless big-wave surfer on the North Shore, but, for the last decade of his life, he worked as a city and county lifeguard at Waimea, rescuing hundreds of swimmers and surfers.

“Saving lives was nothing for him; he just did it,” says Aikau’s sister, Myra. “That’s the type of person he was.”

Aikau was also a proud Hawaiian, passionate about his culture and heritage. He spent two years preparing for the Hokule’a voyage. 

“Eddie knew that Hokule’a was important to the Hawaiian people as a symbol of hope and healing, a bridge to an ancestry with arguably the greatest navigators in their time,” says Nainoa Thompson, a crewmember on the voyage. “When the canoe was upside-down in the Moloka’i Channel, yeah, he needed to save the crew, but he needed to save the symbol, too. His sacrifice for the crew was a sacrifice for everyone.”


Abraham Akaka (1917-1997)

“Whenever people saw Abe, they would say, ‘There goes the aloha man,'” says the Rev. William Kaina. “Because that’s what he would always talk about.”

Indeed, as the kahu (shepherd) of KawaiaHa’o Church from 1957 though 1984, and even in retirement, the Rev. Abraham Akaka devoted his life to spreading aloha. The brother of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, he was an influential figure not only in his congregation, but also in the Hawaiian community and even at the Capitol. In 1962, gubernatorial candidates John A. Burns and William F. Quinn both asked Akaka to run as their lieutenant governor. He declined.

Kaina, Akaka’s successor at KawaiaHa’o, says that, although he was soft-spoken, Akaka was an effective communicator. “He played the ‘ukulele and, often, when he spoke to young people, he would pick it up and start playing it, as a way to get his message across.”

He also did much to popularize the local tradition of blessing new homes and businesses. It’s often joked that, in his time, Akaka must have sprinkled water on every building in Honolulu.

photo: courtesy KawaiaHa’o Church


photo: courtesy of Sen. Akaka

Daniel Akaka (1924-   )   

When U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga died in 1990, then-Gov. John Waihee appointed U.S. Rep. Daniel Akaka to finish out his term. But Akaka stayed for good, winning the election for the seat that same year.

“He was the first Native Hawaiian in the U.S. Senate,” notes local historian Bob Dye, “and he exudes the charm and the warmth and the decency of his people.” 

A soldier during World War II, Akaka has fought for the rights of American veterans. He successfully pushed for the military to review service records of Asian Americans, which led to the awarding of Congressional Medals of Honor to veterans of the famed 442nd, including Sen. Daniel Inouye.

More than anything, Akaka is known as a champion for Native Hawaiian causes. He authored the 1993 apology resolution, in which the United States apologized for its role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Since then, Akaka has fought to pass the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act, now known as the “Akaka Bill.”


Riley Allen (1884-1966)

Riley Allen was the first editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, where his tenure spanned nearly half a century, from 1912 to 1960. “Riley was a dynamo,” says former Star-Bulletin reporter Lyle Nelson.

Not one to sit behind his desk, Allen was known for his short, to the point, phone calls and his networking. “It was not unusual to see him at three different meetings a night,” Nelson says.

Allen distinguished himself and his paper by supporting local Japanese, Filipino and Korean issues, at a time when minority voices were often missing in the media. “They were the new guys on the block,” Nelson says. “He tried to raise their status by getting their names in the paper.”

Nelson explains that newspapering was everything for Allen. His was the only paper published on Dec. 7, 1941. Allen’s unrelenting work ethic meant he was in the office that Sunday morning as Pearl Harbor was attacked. “Riley put out a number of extras that day,” Nelson says, one of which had the famous headline, “WAR! OAHU BOMBED BY JAPANESE PLANES.”

photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin


photo: Monte Costa

Wally Amos (1936- )

One of Honolulu’s few celebrity entrepreneurs, Wally Amos, the former owner and creator of Famous Amos cookies, has again donned his apron to bake cookies for Hawai’i. His first new cookie store in the Islands, Chip and Cookie, located in Kailua, opened this September. No matter what his cookie fortunes, he has for decades been a tireless supporter of the community. Ten percent of the dough he makes from his bite-size treats is used to promote local reading programs.

“I want to let people know how important it is to read to their kids,” says Amos. Besides his cookie store, complete with a reading corner and library, Amos reads books to children on ‘Olelo and PBS. He has also authored several children’s books.

In 1954, while in the Air Force, Amos was stationed on O’ahu for three years. During that time he fell in love with the aloha spirit. Twenty years later, in 1977, he moved back to the Islands.

In addition to his reading ventures, Amos is a board member for the Aloha United Way and YMCA. He says, “I love Hawai’i and I will always do whatever I can to help make it strong.” Through it all, he’s been an inspiration to the city’s countless small businesses.


Alfred Apaka (1919-1960)

Although Alfred Apaka’s career was cut short by a heart attack, he is still regarded as one of Hawai’i’s greatest performers. With a smooth, powerful baritone and good looks to spare–his signature outfit was a white sharkskin suit with a thick, red carnation lei–Apaka exuded charm and aloha like no other.

Early in his career, he brought hapa-haole music to the Mainland in such prestigious venues as the Hotel Lexington in New York City. Later, he would wow visitors back home in Henry Kaiser’s brand-new Hawaiian Village Hotel.

Don McDiarmid Jr. of Hula Records recalls Apaka fondly. “Alfred was a delightful person, really one of the greatest. He was good fun, happy, lots of class,” he says. “And a beautiful voice. The longer he went along, the better he got. Down at the Hawaiian Village, those tourists were just hanging off the rafters.”

photo: courtesy of Jeff Apaka


photo: courtesy of the HPD

Chang Apana (1871-1933)

A Honolulu Police Department log records the 1904 arrest of a man for gambling–evidence included $5.60 and “dices.” But wait: 12 more names follow, arrested at the same time by the same officer. A slow day, perhaps, for Chang Apana, who “holds the record for most arrests–70 people–at one time,” says officer Eddie Croom, the curator of HPD’s museum.

The Waipi’o-born Apana had an early stint as a paniolo, picking up the whip skills he’d later use to tame opium smugglers, gamblers and children out past curfew. A wiry, slight man a little over five feet tall, Apana took a lot of hits while doggedly pursuing his suspects: The deep scar above his eyebrow was from an ax handle, and he was also thrown out of a second-floor window, run over by a horse-and-buggy and stabbed.

While his derring-do was enough to catch anybody’s attention, a Chinese detective was in itself unusual in the era. Captivated, author Earl Derr Biggers based six novels’ worth of the Charlie Chan character on Apana. “Apana’s the epitome of law enforcement in Hawai’i: unique, dedicated,” says Croom. “Law enforcement was his life for 34 years. He’s the ultimate cop.” 


Salevaa “Konishiki” Atisanoe (1963-  )

At home in Hawai’i he is simply known as Sale, but he gained fame around the world, particularly in Japan, as the foreign sumo phenomenon, Konishiki. From 1982 to 1997, “He progressed through the ranks of sumo faster than anyone in Japanese history,” says Konishiki’s brother and manager, Ano Atisanoe. Konishiki was the first foreigner to reach ozeki status, sumo’s second-highest ranking.

Throughout his 15-year career, he never forgot his Island roots. Konishiki’s career opened doors for cultural exchanges between Japan and Hawai’i, especially because sumo is such an ancient and traditional sport, Ano explains.

In his retirement, Konishiki continues to promote Hawai’i in Japan. His company, KP Productions, organizes hula classes and promotes Hawaiian music. Konishiki also shares his Japan experiences with local students. Each year, his Konishiki Kids Foundation gives 35 students from seven different West O’ahu schools the opportunity to travel with the former sumo to Japan.

photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin


photo: College of Hawai’i Yearbook

Alice Ball (1892-1916)

From 1866 to 1969, approximately 8,000 people with Hansen’s disease were forced by law into isolation at Kalaupapa and Kalawao on Moloka’i. Alice Ball’s 1916 research led to the first treatment for the disfiguring condition.

Ball’s method was used to treat the disease for two decades, until 1941, when sulfone drugs were invented. Sadly, Ball has not received the accolades she deserves. Her former professor, Arthur Dean, who later became president of the University of Hawai’i, failed to mention Ball’s groundbreaking research. 

Paul Wermager, head of science and technology reference at UH, explains that this oversight was most likely due to her status as an African American woman, and her death at the early age of 24. Wermager says, “For 80 years the poor lady has been lost to history.”  


Winona Beamer (1923-  )

It’s an incident that has become legend at Kamehameha Schools: In 1937, during an afternoon tea for the school’s trustees, ninth grader Winona Kapuailohia Desha Beamer stood up while chanting the “Oli Aloha.” It seems an innocuous action today, but she was promptly expelled; at the time, a missionary-inspired kapu still forbade females from dancing hula while standing.

What inspired her act of rebellion? “Just because it was a beautiful poem,” Beamer says. “I was just taken by the beauty of the poem, and just did it.”

Beamer returned to Kamehameha in 1949 as an adviser to the Hawaiian Club, and over the next couple of decades helped reintroduce the standing hula for women, and many other aspects of traditional Hawaiian culture, into the school’s curriculum–an accomplishment about which she is similarly modest. “I didn’t think of anything political. The students wanted to learn it, and I was happy to teach it.”

Her protestations aside, Beamer’s contributions as a teacher, a performer, a storyteller, a composer, a kumu hula and a published author have indisputably enriched Hawaiian culture and art, and inspired generations of students to follow in her footsteps.