Vintage Time in Kalawao 

By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa

She hopped out of her red vintage pickup truck and, having surveyed the situation, sprang into action. Streams of water were pouring down Damien Road and out of the Baldwin Home field opposite St. Philomena Church. Unfazed by the water and the mud, she picked up some rocks and placed them behind the rear tires of the truck to help with traction as the truck had become mired in the muddy road. She had already called for help and soon Ken, our Administrator, arrived on the scene followed by Park Ranger Adam. Adam produced a rope, connected the stuck truck to his super Ram pickup and, with a mighty push from  Ken and yours truly, the sunken vehicle was soon freed and rolling up the hill toward Siloama Church. Like the tried and tested veteran that she is, Meli Watanuki had overcome one more obstacle on the road of life.

Meli is always in action some place. On Dec. 21 she had wielded the donation basket at the annual Lions Club dinner and at the same time entertained us with a dancing motion which could be termed a cross between the Hula and the Watusi. I told her that she should get up onto the table so that all could see her but she declined. On consecutive Saturdays she had spearheaded the preparation and the decoration of St. Francis Church for the Christmas season and still had found time and energy to perform all the other services she does so faithfully.

Now, on New Year’s Day, she had driven out to Kalawao on a road that compares to an Irish bog road in winter to check on St. Philomena Church and to feed its resident cat, Kalawao. It had been raining heavily for two days and so there were streams of water running down the mountain cliffs, creating havoc with the gravel and dirt road. Meli, however, is quite the soldier and was even laughing at times as we worked to free her truck from the mud. Just as she does so many times for our church and for this community, she had provided a little adventure for Ken, Adam, and myself on this day, New Year’s Day 2017. And now she was on her way to her next adventure. It had been vintage Meli. Aloha.


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