Hālau honors Kipu Kai Ranch’s Old-time Paniolo Wilfred “Willy” Kuali’i III

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At Merrie Monarch this year, the ladies of Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leināʻala from Kalāheo, Kauaʻi, will perform their ‘auana hula to Mary Kawena Pukui’s “Kipu Kai” honoring an old-time paniolo who worked for Mr. John “Jack” Waterhouse on Kipu Kai Ranch back in the 50s and 60s.That paniolo is my pure Hawaiian father, Wilfred “Willy” Kualiʻi III, who today is 90 years young. We celebrated his 90th with a paniolo-themed pā’ina at Smith’s Tropical Paradise where he tore up the dance floor in the same cowboy boots, hat and beautiful peacock feather band that he’ll be wearing at the hālau’s performance.

Dad was born on Oct. 1, 1933, in Kalaupapa; the only child of Louisa Kalaeloa of Waimea, Kauaʻi, and Wilfred “Liʻiliʻi” Kualiʻi of Waipiʻo Valley, Hawaiʻi Island; both patients at Kalawao County’s leper hospital and colony. At 3-days-old, cleared of leprosy, he was taken by his mother’s half-sister Melapa “May” Makanui back to Kauaʻi. He had a tough childhood only being able to get to the third grade and having to work really hard in the taro patches and salt pans of Hanapēpē. By the time he was nearing adulthood, he was more than ready to leave that all behind for the life of a paniolo on Kipu Kai Ranch.

In her late teens, Mom (Patricia Ann Carvalho Kualiʻi), started going into Kipu Kai Ranch with her father (Ernest “Shiriki” Souza Carvalho), a weekend ranch mechanic, to clean and cook in the main house. It wasn’t long before the paniolo and the housekeeper met and fell in love under the watchful eye of their boss, Mr. Waterhouse who, true to the song’s descriptor (“kind-hearted”), was so very kind to them and our new and growing family over the next several years.

Since losing Mom five years ago, we’ve pushed Dad to choose living; reminding him Mom wanted us to have more time together. As it turns out, he got to watch our baby brother Kawika compete in Merrie Monarch just a few years ago. Both Mom and Dad really loved watching Merrie Monarch; especially the Miss Aloha Hula portion. Mom was a hula dancer herself and I’m sure she must have danced “Kipu Kai” for Mr. Waterhouse; maybe even to the singing of Mary Kawena Pukui herself and/or Uncle Bill Kaiwa.

In early January, three of my siblings (Sandra Hokulani, Debra Ualani and Kris Kawika), myself and Dad went on a huakaʻi to Kipu Kai Ranch with the hālau. None of us had returned there for well over 30 years. We had the most wonderful, magical time filled with tears and smiles. The only thing missing from such a heavenly day was the physical presence of Mom! We are forever grateful to Kumu Leināʻala Pavao Jardin, the First Hawaiian Bank Trustee, the Ranch Caretaker, and the ladies of Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leināʻala. This means everything to our entire Kualiʻi ʻOhana – especially to Dad!