By Valerie Monson
All of us at Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa were deeply saddened — and completely shocked — to hear of the passing of Colette Machado.
Colette was instrumental in the early formation and overall success of Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa. When we were thinking of organizing what became known as Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa in early 2003, I consulted with Colette. Although she could not attend our organizational workshop that August (where the 70 of us voted to form Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa), Colette attended meetings of our steering committee and was appointed to the first Board of Directors in 2004.
Colette served on our board from 2004-2016, only stepping down because she had so many responsibilities related to her kuleana with OHA, so she was often unable to attend our ʻOhana board meetings. Nevertheless, Colette remained supportive and involved in other ways; we could always reach out to her. I should add that Colette had ʻohana who died at Kalaupapa.
Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa was so fortunate to have Colette on our side – a fierce Hawaiian warrior who always felt the voices of the people needed to be heard. As you know, she was intimidated by no one.
Colette was especially close to Bernard Punikaiʻa, who envisioned Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa and was our initial chairman of the board. She was also close to Kuulei Bell, our first president; Gloria Marks, our first treasurer and still a member of our ʻOhana board; Makia Malo, a member of our first ʻOhana board; and Boogie Kahilihiwa, a member of our first board who would succeed Kuulei after her death in 2009 and serve as our president from that time until his death last year. Each one of them – and so many others in our ʻOhana, including myself – lit up when Colette walked through the door for one of our meetings at Kalaupapa.
Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa would not be where it is today without the strong voices and actions of our early core leaders. Colette was one of our strongest voices and someone who we could always depend upon to help us in whatever way she could. When we had great news to share, she would allow Ka ʻOhana to write her monthly column in Ka Wai Ola. It helped us reach so many in the Hawaiian community – and we often heard from people who were searching for their ancestors.
Colette helped form Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa and remained steadfast in her support of our mission. I am writing still with tears in my eyes. I cannot believe she is gone.
Valerie Monson is a founding member of Ka ʻOhana O Kalaupapa and served as its coordinator/executive director from 2008-2020.