December 16, 1948 – December 14, 2017
Many Hawaiians today will go to great measure to link their mo‘okū‘auhau to Hāloa. For Jerry Konanui, grandson of David and Lucy Konanui and Hilarion and Rebecca Enriquez, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Konanui, there is no question that his relationship with Hāloanakalaukapalili was a strong and intimate one.
On Dec. 14, 2017, the lāhui lost a great and beloved man. He is survived by his loving wife, Gladys F. Konanui of Pāhoa; daughters, Nicholle (Damon Tucker) Konanui and Kanani (Lawrence Kalawe) Konanui of Pāhoa, Teresa (Sheldon) Pajimola of Chester, Virginia five grandchildren; mother Elizabeth Konanui of Sumter, South Carolina; brother Howard (Jane) Konanui of Pähoa; sisters Sheila (Harold) Aiona of Opihikao and Janet (Thomas) Gladden of Sumter, South Carolina; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Born in ‘Opihikao, Uncle Jerry was a taro farmer, widely known throughout Hawai‘i and beyond as a respected loea and hulu kupuna. Due to Uncle Jerry’s humble nature and demeanor, he often refuted the acknowledgement of himself as an “expert.” Instead, he described himself as Jerry Konanui LPM – Lepo pōpolo mahi‘ai – a mere farmer who has skin darkened by the lepo or earth that he works within.
Those like myself who were fortunate to have spent some time withhin would say otherwise. We could undoubtedly attest that he was THE authority on the subject of a number of things related to mahi‘ai including Hawaiian ‘awa, ‘uala, ‘ulu, and especially kalo. If you experienced any of the hundreds of workshops he conducted on these topics, you inevitably witnessed the deep passion that inspired him to not only learn and document, but to protect, care for and pass down the tools and knowledge to assure that his beloved Hāloanakalaukapalili would be there for centuries to come.
Uncle Jerry left us with valuable ‘ōlelo no‘eau I know will resound in the memories of many.
When asked which what the best taro or his favorite taro was, his reply would be something like:
“I never met a taro I didn’t like” or “The best taro is the one in front of me on my dinner table.”
When asked about taro that may not have been of optimal quality or growth, he’d respond, “It’s not the taro’s fault. Don’t blame the taro.”
“Always plant with intention,”he’d say. “Let the kalo know you want it to grow to be big and strong, let it know if you want it to have many keiki, or perhaps you want it to grow to feed the 400 people coming your keiki graduation party.”
This mele was written by grandson Hayden Konanui-Tucker:
He Mele No Jerry
Na: Hayden Konanui-Tucker
He makuakāne o ‘ekolu
He kupunakäne o ‘elima
He hulu kupuna no Hawai‘i a
puni Aloha ‘o ia iā kākou a pau
Pūlama ‘ia ka noho pū
Hui: Mai‘ōaōaloha‘ia‘oe Ka‘ana
i kou ‘ike iä käkou Mahalo nui
‘ia ke aloha He mele nou papa
Ola kona ‘iwi i ke a‘o ha‘awina
Ma laila kona aloha
Ha‘i mo‘olelo o ke kalo
E mālama i ka ‘ike ku‘una
Hā‘ina ‘ia mai ana kapuana
‘O kona aloha i nā po‘e Hawai‘i
Nā mākou ke kuleana e ho‘omau E
ho‘omau ana kākou
I am particularly fond of this statement from a eulogy at Uncle Jerry’s funeral services held in Pāhoa and read by Mahea Pajimola, his oldest grandchild: “You know if you Google kalo, you see pictures of my Papa.” He taught us the importance of preserving the Hawaiian culture, loving and supporting our ‘ohana, and living with aloha. My papa gave everyone here a little piece of ‘ike and we ask you all to pass it on, to share his love and his knowledge.”
Please do heed her challenge, search for kalo and Jerry Konanui on the Internet and you will find many great resources and evidence of the legacy he has left behind. Jerry Konanui, e ola kou inoa.