Photo: courtesy of David and Chris Mahelona

Reaching Out to Families

One of the goals of the 'Ohana is to reach out to family members who are trying to find their roots at Kalaupapa. Many descendents are now coming to Kalaupapa to complete their family trees and find out as much information as possible about ancestors they might not have known about.

Before the ‘Ohana was created, Puna Ramos had already started to fill this need. Over the years, Puna, who was married to a Kalaupapa patient and has been a volunteer for The National Park Service, has helped dozens of people find pictures, stories and graves of their family members. The state Department of Health has also assisted families searching for vital information.

A few years ago, the family of Rosina Weber first learned that she had been sent to Kalaupapa in the early 1900s. With Puna’s help, Rosina’s descendents were able to piece together part of her story and two of her great-granddaughters who live on Maui, Bunnie Reeser and Marilyn Cleghorn, have become active members of the ‘Ohana. Although they have were unable to find Rosina’s grave during a visit to Kalaupapa, the family gathered around a tombstone without a name to present their floral tributes and offer a prayer in her memory (Photo: Don Reeser).

Native Hawaiians Chris and David Mahelona (top photo) now live in Washington, but through the the Internet, became acquainted with Anwei Law and Valerie Monson as they searched for information about their family members: David’s brother and uncle were at Hale Mohalu and Kalaupapa. Kuulei Bell sponsored the Mahelonas’ visit in April – and both Chris and David’s lives have been changed by the power of Kalaupapa. They have also discovered that other ancestors were sent to Kalaupapa, Jonathan Napela, the great Mormon and leader of the early Mormon community at Kalawao. The Mahelonas have also become strong supporters of the ‘Ohana.


(above) Cathrine Puahala (right) and her daughter, Pauline Puahala Hess, have been spending more time together since Pauline moved back to Hawaii from the Mainland.

“When I first came to Kalaupapa about 10 years ago, I was changed in one day because my family was here. I cried the whole time.”

Sol Kaho‘ohalahala

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