Fred Keakaokalani Cachola
Nov. 24, 1935 – Feb. 20, 2023
By Kēhaunani Abad
An expression of admiration for Kohala, a district that has been a leader in doing good work.
Amidst the bustle of the Kohala Plantation Halaʻula Down Camp, Fred Keakaokalani Cachola was born to Esther (ʻŪʻū) and Federico Cachola. In that rich, multicultural village, where kids could explore far and wide and enjoy adventures with friends, he developed an enduring love for ʻāina and community.
Fred’s profound aloha for Hawaiʻi, the people of Hawaiʻi, and ʻōiwi culture, history, and wahi pana (storied places) moved his heart and hands in ways that will continue to reverberate for generations to come.
His journey began in his kulāiwi of Kohala where he became a keen observer of his surroundings, as it was his job twice daily to find feed for the family’s ducks, chickens, and rabbits and, at appropriate times, to harvest the maiʻa, niu, papayas, avocado, ʻōhiʻa ʻai, gundule, and other plants his father grew.
He was a proud student of Halaʻula Elementary, later moving to Kamehameha Schools and graduating alongside his beloved Nā Pua Maeʻole 1953 classmates.
After going home to Kohala and working for the sugar plantation, he joined the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and later earned his teaching degree from Iowa State Teachers College.
Returning to Hawaiʻi, Fred served as a history teacher at Waiʻanae Intermediate where he met his first wife, Eiko Cachola. The two grew roots in Waiʻanae, with Fred learning about Waiʻanae moʻolelo from revered kūpuna there. He would bring his students outside of the classroom to visit wahi pana, sharing what he learned and giving them new insights that rooted them to their heritage and fostered their pride in being from Waiʻanae.
His zest for bringing life to fresh ideas, and his newly earned MEd and Education Administration Certification from UH Mānoa, led to him becoming the vice-principal and later principal of Nānāikapono Elementary. There he started a college credit-bearing course in which all faculty learned about Nānākuli, Hawaiian culture, and learning styles of Native Hawaiian keiki. He even gained the support of DOE Human Resources personnel for his stand to hire office staff who were exclusively from Nānākuli because they were uniquely qualified to relate well with the students and ʻohana of Nānāikapono. All of this led to a tight-knit and in-sync learning community of professional colleagues who also became friends that would enjoy many celebratory after-hours pāʻina.
His administrative approaches and successes set the stage for Fred to shape a new opportunity at Kamehameha Schools to have Pauahi’s legacy reach keiki throughout the pae ʻāina. In 1971, Fred became Kamehameha Schools’ first Director of Extension Education.
He and his wide circle of colleagues were trailblazers and innovators. Hawaiian culture was integral to each program they created. They served haumāna who struggled in school—middle school students reading below their grade level and high school ʻōpio on the verge of dropping out. These efforts were fueled with the confidence that Native Hawaiian youth would be successful, engaged learners if they were connected to their culture, surrounded by kumu who believed in them, and pulled in to the people and places in their communities that mattered to them.
They started Kamehameha preschools, designed programs to nurture wāhine through their pregnancies and help them raise ʻeleu kamaiki (children), created Hawaiian studies resources for schools, trained ʻōpio to kūlia (strive) into leadership roles, enabled haumāna to gain facility in working with computers, helped schools foster the mauli ola (healing) of haumāna and keep them drug free, and worked with DOE principals to open summer schools in numerous Hawaiian communities, ensuring that ʻōpio could graduate on time or leap ahead to learn more.
Recognizing that learning is a life-long journey, Extension Education also offered GED night school for adults at the Kapālama campus and for Kānaka in prison. Other evening courses included ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian cooking, kī hōʻalu (slack key), ʻukulele making, featherwork, computer training, and more, with some classes designed for mākua or kūpuna to learn side by side with their keiki or moʻopuna.
Beyond the programs he and his team gave birth to, Fred initiated Kamehameha Schools’ scholarships for non-campus students, opened Pauahi’s lands for educational and cultural purposes, and facilitated the first convening of what became the ʻAhahui ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.
Fred also organized and grew canoe paddling as a high school sport, working with principals open to the idea and canoe clubs eager to train high school crews, starting with a first race at Mākaha between Kamehameha and Waiʻanae high schools.
Complementing his Kamehameha Schools kuleana, Fred was a staunch advocate for cultural and community causes. As the vice-president of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana (PKO) in the 1970s, he helped to broker the first meetings between the PKO and the Navy.
As a board member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, he worked alongside his lifetime mentor, Myron “Pinky” Thompson, steering resources to support Hōkūleʻa’s early journeys and even helping with such in-the-moment needs as securing, and having delivered to Hōkūleʻa at sea, the hae Hawaiʻi that flew proudly upon her triumphant return voyage in 1976.
Fred was a servant leader, sharing his time, expertise, passion, and diplomacy with other organizations such as the Federal Advisory Commission for the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Nā Hoapili o Kaloko-Honokohau, Homerule, Hui Hānai Executive Council, Kalihi YMCA Board of Managers, State Historic Places Review Board, OHA Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council, U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s Native American Advisory Group, Hawaiʻi Pacific Parks Association Board, ʻEwa by Gentry Community Association Board, Hawaiʻi Island Burial Council, Royal Order of Kamehameha, and numerous Kohala community organizations.
As a dedicated kanaka aloha ʻāina who cared deeply about protecting and bringing wahi pana back into cultural use, Fred helped to galvanize community action to restore and protect Kūʻīlioloa, Pūnanaʻula, and Hale o Kāʻili heiau and to ensure the stewardship of Kamehameha’s birthsite at Kokoiki, Kaloko-Honokohau, sites along the Kaʻahumanu Hwy, and hundreds of acres of Kohala Coast conservation lands.
Having learned from Kohala kūpuna since the 1960s, he was a trusted keeper of moʻolelo and generously shared these moʻolelo with many who came to endear those places, their history, and mele. However, his favorite and most frequent companions at wahi pana were his moʻopuna and keiki who mālama the moʻolelo he entrusted with them.
In retirement, Fred volunteered as a docent for ʻIolani Palace and Washington Place to help convey accurate, compelling accounts of our kingdom and aliʻi. Kamaʻāina and malihini he hosted were treated to both a tour and live mele.
Throughout his life, his booming voice filled the tenor sections of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Glee Club, Hawaiʻi Opera Chorus, the Honolulu Symphony Chorus, and ʻImiola Church Choir.
Fred’s last rich decade of life brought him back to Kohala where he fell in love with his beloved wife Sandy. The happy pair could be found enjoying Waimea and Kaʻauhuhu and ardently engaged with ʻImiola Church where Fred served as Head of the Children’s Ministry.
Fred Keakaokalani Cachola’s legacy and memory run deeply through the weave of our community and resound joyously through the heartstrings of many who love him dearly.
On Feb. 20, 2023, surrounded by his loved ones, he returned to Ke Akua. He is survived by his wife, Sandra Decker; his sisters Henrietta Kaleikau and Florence Kawai; his daughters Julie-Ann Moanikeʻala Cachola, Kēhaunani Abad, and Leinani Cachola; and his moʻopuna Nakili Cachola, Kalamapuaʻena and Kamalupāwehi Abad, and Kekoalaukani Hieber.
Celebrations of Fred’s life will be held at the Kamehameha Schools Chapel on Saturday, April 22 at 2:30 p.m. and at ʻImiola Church in Waimea on Saturday, April 29, at 10:00 a.m.