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Brother Dutton Statue Gifted to Molokai

Molokai is already home to two saints — Damien and Marianne — and if efforts continue, the island might be known for a third: Brother Joseph Dutton. Dutton worked alongside St. Damien and Marianne to serve Hansen’s disease patients in Kalaupapa, but he is just as known for his rocky past before becoming a Catholic. Thanks to Oahu benefactor John Perreira and a few local residents, including the late Larry Helm, a statue of Dutton will soon arrive on Molokai to help tell the story of a transformation from soldier to would-be saint.

A Relatable Life
Dutton served in the Northern Army during the Civil War and climbed the ranks for his loyal service. After the war, he volunteered to find the dead left on battlefields and trace missing soldiers. He got married, but the union ended in divorce. He turned to alcohol, and, while suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his military career, drank heavily for the next decade, according to accounts of his life.

Things turned around for Dutton, however, when he began studying religion and became a Catholic. He learned about Father Damien’s work in Kalaupapa, and he volunteered there for the next 45 years until his death in 1931.

Because of his status as a military veteran and the struggles he overcame, he has become a role model and inspiration for some veterans today, and many in Hawaii are pushing for his canonization as a Catholic saint.

One of those was Molokai resident and veteran Larry Helm. After Molokai’s St. Damien Catholic Parish priest Father Bill Petrie told Helm about Dutton, Helm — himself a Caholic — wanted to share the story of Dutton’s life.

“When [Helm] found out [Dutton] was a Civil War veteran, it peaked his interest since my dad is also a veteran,” said Helm’s daughter, Nichol Helm Kahale. “He went home and searched Dutton on the Internet and was intrigued by his story: a civil war veteran with PTSD who went to Kalaupapa to serve those in need.”

Connecting the Dots
Meanwhile, Perreira, a fellow veteran on Oahu, was researching construction of a statue to honor Dutton on Molokai. Perreira had also paid for a statue of St. Marianne in Kalaupapa, which was installed in the settlement last year. He wanted something similar for Dutton, but placing a statue in the Kalaupapa National Historical Park requires a lengthy federal approval process, and Perreira, at age 93, did not want to wait that long.

That’s when he contacted Petrie, who suggested the statue be placed either at the new Veterans Center or next to St. Joseph’s church in Kamalo, which was built by St. Damien.

“Larry was excited about it — he was delighted to think it could go at the vet’s hall,” recalled Petrie.

“[Helm] wanted to get all the veterans together and this would be like a symbol, a beacon,” added Perreira.

But because the Veterans Center has not yet been completed and permits are still required to place it in Kalaupapa, Petrie said the statue will likely find a temporary home at St. Joseph’s.

The Statue
The 7-foot-tall marble statue of Dutton, weighing more than 2,000 pounds, is scheduled to arrive on Molokai by barge this week, said Petrie. It was carved in China. Perreira did not want to say how much construction and shipping of the statue cost. The statue depicts Dutton in his Union uniform, he said.

“John wanted to captivate the young military man who served in the Civil War,” said Petrie of Perreira’s vision. Perreira said he worked closely with Helm to design the statue.

Petrie added the statue will aid in the process of Dutton’s possible canonization, which requires several steps. One requirement for the Catholic Church ton consider someone for sainthood is public admiration, explained Petrie. He added having a visible statue, especially in Kamalo, where many visitors and pilgrims stop, will move that process forward.

“Larry was waiting for this and… his dream was fulfilled in this statue,” said Perreira, expressing regret that Helm will not be here to see the statue.

He said he hopes it will arrive on Molokai in time for Helm’s memorial services this Saturday.


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