Faces of the Diaspora Series: A Keʻanae Girl “Left Hawaiʻi for Good”

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In her living room in Port Orchard, Wash., Daisy Ann Young-Kiu Akuna Goodall, 83, still strums the strings of the ʻukulele she first learned to play as a teenager in Hawaiʻi. “I learned it by ear – and watching,” said Goodall, a native of Keʻanae in rural Maui.

Today, drivers pass by the small coastal community when they traverse the Hana Highway. But in Goodall’s birth year of 1941, before the Road to Hana was even paved, Keʻanae was predominantly made up of kalo farmers, including the Akunas. “I grew up in the country,” Goodall said.

One of 15 siblings, she was raised in a Catholic household. Instead of learning hula, Goodall tried out ʻOri Tahiti, or Tahitian dance. With Kanaka ʻŌiwi lineage on both sides of her ʻohana, she remembers her Tūtū Wahine occasionally speaking ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. However, with the Hawaiian language banned since 1896, keiki like her learned English.

“That was in the ‘40s,” Goodall said. “We didn’t know how to use pidgin English – how to say it, pronounce it.”

Her family planted kalo, which they’d either sell for spending money or pound into poi for their own meals. Goodall primarily ate iʻa (fish), with kālua pig saved for celebrations. The process of roasting the pork is “a lot of work,” she laughed. Goodall also picked ʻulu (breadfruit) from trees with her makua kāne, Alexander Ah Sing Akuna, and her brothers, calling cooked breadfruit a “delicious” treat.

Back then, she didn’t know that she’d eventually pass the name Ululani onto her youngest daughter, then her eldest granddaughter, inspired by those memories and childhood acquaintances with the same name.

Goodall resided in Keʻanae until the age of 13 when she left to attend junior high school in Honolulu. At 15 years old, she returned to finish her education at Maui High School. Afterward, Goodall was on the hunt for odd jobs, leading her back to Oʻahu, which offered more opportunities. She found employment at the Dole Plantation, working seasonally in the pineapple fields alongside her sister, Mary.

At that time, 20-year-old Goodall met her future husband, David Eugene Goodall – a Navy man and inside machinist from Seattle who was stationed at Pearl Harbor. They crossed paths on the way to the laundromat and wed one year later at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Wailuku, Maui. Their first daughter, Tammy Lynn, was born in Honolulu’s Tripler Army Medical Center in 1964, followed by David Eugene in 1966.

A military spouse for 18 years, Goodall called it “a rewarding experience for me.” Although she never dreamed of exploring beyond the islands, her husband’s two decades in the service eventually took her to the continent.

In 1966, Goodall – then 25 years old – moved to California with her growing family. “It was a new experience for me,” albeit an enjoyable one, she said. Later that year, her son, Marvin Edward, was born in Long Beach. In 1969, she welcomed Heidi Ululani, her youngest child of four, in San Diego.

Two years later, her clan resettled in Oʻahu. “It was nice to go back to Hawaiʻi,” Goodall said. At that point, “I’ve seen the mainland,” she added.

However, they’d only remain on the islands for a little longer. “In 1975, we left Hawaiʻi for good,” Goodall said. They spent the next few years in California, then, after Goodall’s spouse retired, they decided that his home state of Washington state would count as their final destination.

At that point, Goodall also considered Hawaiʻi an unaffordable option. In 1979, after considering several homes, they chose a two-story house surrounded by forest in the city of Port Orchard where they’d live for the next 44 years. “This was the only house that was big enough for us,” Goodall said.

Washington now hosts one of the largest Hawaiian diasporic communities on the continent, with about 1% of its population identifying as Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But back then, Goodall counted as one of the area’s only Hawaiians.

When locals found out about her islander roots, they’d respond, “Golly, really? What are you doing here?” Goodall said.

As her spouse worked jobs like making tuna-boat parts in Ballard, Goodall, a homemaker, oversaw the children once school let out. Their dinners almost always included rice – a mealtime nod to their Hawaiian culture.

Now, her keiki are grown, and she’s become a kūpuna herself – a grandmother of five and a great-grandmother of one. Goodall hasn’t returned to the islands since 1992, and, at her age, can’t foresee herself stepping foot on the ʻāina again. Instead, she prefers to leave those travels to her progeny.

Still, 2,630 miles northeast of Keʻanae, echoes of the aloha spirit resound in the corners of Goodall’s home: a bottle of island gardenia-scented perfume, a half-shell holding plumeria earrings, a deck of Hanafuda playing cards tucked away until the next family gathering – belongings of a Hawaiian girl turned American woman in the diaspora.

Author’s note: Daisy Goodall is the maternal grandmother of Ka Wai Ola writer Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton.