Wai‘anae Honors 40 Outstanding Heroes

If you can make it here, they will remember you— at the new Wai‘anae Coast Hall of Fame.
photos: krystie kau/searider productions; courtesy of families 


Life is both beautiful and challenging on the Wai‘anae Coast, with Hawaiian culture and traditions fiercely treasured and passed on under a hot sun and a history of limited economic prospects. But, if Wai‘anae is hard, it also awakens abiding loyalty to the Leeward O‘ahu community. That’s why there is no shortage of names to fill out the first class of the Wai‘anae Coast Hall of Fame. From activists to store owners to surfers to educators, the 40 honorees announced at the recent induction ceremony made Wai‘anae what it is—and better. The new hall of fame was created by A&B Properties Inc. to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Wai‘anae Mall, which now hosts a permanent installation.


Plaques honor local heroes ranging from surfer “Queen of Mākaha” Rell Sunn, Hawaiian advocate Margaret Apo, grocery store founder Katsuichi Tamura, waterman Buffalo Keaulana, activist Frenchy DeSoto and football coach Larry Ginoza. Outsiders who made a difference in Wai‘anae are also recognized, including wrestler Lord James “Tally Ho” Blears and Mākaha developer Chinn Ho. According to rancher and selection committee member Albert Silva, “Our goal is to make this an annual event, where we induct a few individuals each year.” 



Local Heroes 

MARGARET APO is synonymous with both formal education and Hawaiian culture in Wai‘anae. In her opinion, education was the key to success and even greatness for the less fortunate. Apo is also known for her role in proposing Hawaiian as the official state language, a position adopted in the 1978 Constitutional Convention. She served for 18 years on the school board, while teaching Hawaiian language and music at the Wai‘anae Heritage Center, and earned her own B.A. at age 62 from Central Michigan University. 


RELL SUNN is perhaps the best-known Wai‘anae personality today, her popularity undiminished since her 1998 passing. Her joy in the ocean was profound—she surfed, spearfished, raced outrigger canoes, worked as a lifeguard and started the Rell Sunn Menehune Surf Contest for children. Sunn was known for her out-spoken advice and assistance to young and wayward souls who came to her house on the beach at Mākaha. Despite a long battle with cancer, she lived her life joyfully, inspiring a documentary film, a book, a commemorative website and a song, “Mother of the Sea.” 


The annual Rell Sunn Menehune Surf Contest carries on Sunn’s legacy—these days it’s run by her daughter, Jan Sunn-Carreira. rellsunn.com


KATSUICHI TAMURA took over Tamura Shotet, a 600-square-foot store his father had started in Wai‘anae in 1905, and persevered through hard times until, in 1957, he opened Tamura Superette on Farrington Highway. With sons Herbert and Clifford, Tamura was renowned for keeping prices low and hiring teenage customers in order to give them pocket money. Today, the Tamura tradition continues through two separate lines: son Clifford and family took over the original store in 1994, while Herbert and his family started Tamura’s Markets and Tamura’s Fine Wines & Liquors stores. 



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