Kalaupapa Resident Celebrates 100

By Kalaupapa Volunteers

On April 12, John Arruda, a patient and resident of Kalaupapa for over 75 years, celebrated his 100th birthday.

Arruda’s remarkable journey began in 1945 when he was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease and sent to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula. At the time, the prevailing belief was that Kalaupapa was a place to die. However, Arruda maintained a resilient spirit. Over the years, he defied expectations, finding love, happiness, and success in Kalaupapa. He worked on the Suez Canal, witnessed Father Damien’s canonization, and fought to regain custody of his daughter.

“The State of Hawaii has provided me with everything, and that’s why I have this beautiful Kalaupapa, which has kept me going all these years and where I call home,” said Arruda.

Arruda’s life has been marked by challenges, from witnessing his father’s departure to his own struggles with the disease. Despite setbacks, he embraced acceptance and moved forward, finding solace in sports, church, and friendships. His enduring bond with Paul Harada and his family exemplifies the close-knit community of Kalaupapa.

Throughout his life, Arruda has been a caretaker of the past, ensuring the upkeep of Kalaupapa’s graveyards and honoring those who came before him. Despite periods of remission and recurrence of the disease, Arruda’s spirit remains unbroken. He cherishes his family, maintains connections with loved ones, and advocates for the preservation of Kalaupapa’s legacy.

“I’m grateful for everything the Department of Health has done for me and the people and patients of Kalaupapa. I don’t have any worries,” said Arruda. “A special mahalo to Governor Green, whom I met several times here in Kalaupapa and who I consider to be my friend.”

Gov. Green wrote a message for Arruda in recognition of his centennial birthday.

“On the auspicious occasion of John Arruda’s 100th birthday, I am honored to extend my
heartfelt congratulations and deepest respect to a remarkable individual who embodies
resilience, courage, and the indomitable human spirit. John’s journey, from the solitude of Kalaupapa’s shores to the vibrant tapestry of life he has woven over the decades, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. His resilience, courage, and unwavering spirit have left an indelible mark on the hearts of all those who know him. John’s refusal to be defined by adversity, and his determination to embrace life with boundless energy and joy, are an invaluable testament to the power of hope and the human spirit. His tireless advocacy for the preservation of Kalaupapa’s legacy serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of honoring our shared history and cherishing our communities, and his infectious laughter and zest for life are a constant source of inspiration to those around him.”

As he reflected on his life from the same bay where his journey began, Arruda acknowledged his gratitude for the blessings he’s received. His story is a testament to resilience, faith, and the enduring power of the human spirit.

Arruda celebrated his birthday with a party in Kalaupapa.


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