Aloha, Uncle Boogie
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Kalaupapa’s Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa will be remembered by many around the world for his big smile, even bigger presence and his life of advocacy for patients of Hansen’s disease in Kalaupapa. Uncle Boogie passed away on March 5 at the age of 79, following an illness.
Uncle Boogie served as president of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, an organization for patient residents and their families and friends, since 2011, as well as a member and former president of the Kalaupapa Lions Club. He retired from his job as a painter with the state Dept. of Health and managed the Kalaupapa Bookstore, a popular visitor stop on the Kalaupapa tour. He attended the canonizations of both St. Damien and St. Marianne at the Vatican in Rome.
“Boogie was forced to leave his family on Hawaii Island in 1950 when he was just 9 years old because he was diagnosed with leprosy,” Ka ‘Ohana o Kalaupapa shared in an announcement of his passing. “After nine years at Hale Mohalu in Pearl City, he went to Kalaupapa [which] became home. Like so many others who were sent to Kalaupapa, Boogie made a new life for himself and went on to find happiness and success.”
He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Ivy.
Sen. Kalani English called Uncle Boogie a “dear friend” who he knew for more than 20 years.
“As the president of Ka ‘Ohana o Kalaupapa, Uncle Boogie was a leader and a tireless advocate for the patients of Kalaupapa. He dedicated his entire life to preserving the settlement and he worked hard to honor the dignity of every individual that was forced to relocate there.”
With Uncle Boogie’s passing, 11 of those previously exiled to Kalaupapa are living today, five of whom remain in the settlement.