Kawaiahao Cemetery - Letter of Concern

February 14, 2011

From: Irmalee Kamakaonaona “Onaona” Pomroy Maly

Kawaiaha‘o Church
Attn: Kahu Curtis Kekuna, Senior Pastor
957 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

RE: Family Burials at Kawaiaha‘o Church Cemetery; Ninth Kāhea i nā ‘Ohana Meeting held February 8, 2011; and concern regarding ‘ohana buried in Kawaiaha‘o Cemetery.

Kahu Kekuna:

My name is Irmalee Kamakaonaona Pomroy Maly. I am informing you in writing, I have ‘ohana-kūpuna buried at Kawaiaha‘o Church. My great-grandmother Lā‘ielohelohe Kapukui Pomroy (and infant who died with her in 1910); and Samuel Lawrence Pomroy, aged 2 ½, who died in 1900. 

I know where my great-grandmother is buried (in the Halu‘apo plot – also being family). She has a grave marker but we are concerned as her grave is located right next door to the “Word of Life” building and who knows if someday in the future—based on the history of Kawaiaha‘o, as a church which digs up its congregants graves—that the church may decide to intrude into this section of the cemetery as well. We do not know the location of little Samuel’s grave, and are concerned that he may be one of the unknown ‘iwi.

On behalf of my family, I share with you that we do not want my great grandmother, Samuel or any other ‘iwi kūpuna to be removed from their final resting place. In both the traditional Hawaiian and Christian contexts, there is a reverence for burial sites, that runs deep among our families, and which, for some reason, Kawaiaha‘o has seen fit to ignore.

It is my feeling, that you, the families of Kawaiaha‘o, and members of families, whose elders are buried at Kawaiaha‘o need to respect and mālama the ‘iwi—those in the ground, and those sitting in your basement for over a year. I don’t understand why they were removed in the first place. Whether marked or not, this is a known cemetery, and the record of burials on the property pre-dates the A.B.C.F.M. lands award; and you have known there are burials all about you. How this poor (disrespectful) treatment of members of your church could be allowed, is difficult to comprehend. Just because they are in the way of a multi-purpose building? To build a “kingdom?” We know that the Kingdom of God is not made by the hands of man.

I apologize to my kūpuna for not coming forward sooner when the first unearthing of the ‘iwi occurred. I’ve lived on neighbor islands for the past 30 + years, and because we work full-time, I was not aware of this hewa being allowed to happen. Sadly the desecration of our kūpuna ‘iwi is not new to us, we have been involved and came forward before in protection of ‘iwi kūpuna by questioning, researching, holding signs in protest, making news, etc. back in the ‘70s, 80s and 90s. Never ever in my worst nightmare could I possibly imagine burials at Kawaiaha‘o cemetery would be allowed to be dug up in this day and age. Adding to the hewa, is the fact that this is a Hawaiian Church, and Hawaiians are facilitating the desecration.  

Because it happened in the past, more so today, we cannot let it happen again. We have lost enough of our past, our history, our right as a people, it is time for all Hawaiians, all human beings who care, to make a stand. Watch out everyone, for if this is allowed to happen at this well known graveyard who is to stop other graveyards in the future of having this same fate.

I received the invitation and for the first time I attended your hosted Ninth Kāhea i nā ‘Ohana Meeting held on February 8, 2011. My husband and I arrived early as we weren’t exactly sure where on the grounds the meeting was to be held. I approached two older Hawaiian couples who sitting on a bench, said “aloha,” and asked, “Where is the meeting being held?” One of the women asked me, in a very sarcastic voice, “What is your name?” I told her who I was. She then asked “What is my last name? I told her, she asked “Since when did you become a church
member?” “I am not a church member.” She said, “I don’t know who you are?” I explained I was there for the burial/‘iwi meeting. She was very rude and sassy, she told me, “What is so good about the bones? They are all gone, they no more feelings.”

Right then I felt so hurt in my na‘au, she hurt me spiritually. I walked away, my husband and I immediately went into prayer. A few moments later a friend, Lani Ma‘a walked up, came up and hugged us. It felt good to know there was a friend at Kawaiaha‘o amongst the wolves. She invited us into the church to go in through the side entrance. While she was directing us, another unknown person, a man, told Lani, “They can’t come in this way, they have to go in the front entrance”. No aloha, no compassion, no care. He didn’t even come up to us to explain, he just spoke to Lani who looked very apologetic, but what could she do. We walked away and went in the front door. I later found out during the meeting by his introduction, this “man” is the newly appointed chair of the Na ‘Iwi Committee. That felt like a slap in my face, to be treated so poorly by the one who has been given charge in the responsibility for the care of our ‘iwi.

As the meeting unfolded with Kimo Kahoano as the mediator, he read the rules which included, “Treat everyone who speaks with kindness, compassion and respect, even if you disagree.” We sat towards the back of the church for we were there mostly to observe since this was our first time in attendance. In my observation each time someone went up to share their mana‘o, if the person was speaking on behalf of our ‘iwi kūpuna the church members were very rude, they would mumble under their breath and make snide remarks.

Because of how they were acting, I did not go up to share. I personally feel there was nothing accomplished at that meeting, it was a waste of time. Is that how all your meetings have been in the past? You and your church members have already made up your mind and desire to finish your building, you care about nothing else. Obviously you cannot see how very wrong this is. How can you or I for that matter attend a funeral at a grave site and not help but think, “Is this only temporary?” until this location is going to be for a future road or a new building?

I can say that one member of your congregation represented the spirit of aloha, in her mannerism that evening. Mrs. Galuteria, graciously came up to us, said aloha, and shared a few family memories with us – my grandmother, Violet Kaiapa Pomroy had been her teacher. Mahalo to her and Lani for being kanaka mākua.

In a recent search of news on cemeteries, and the word “grave,” I came across discussions about flowers being taken off graves, and how upset people are. I can’t help but think what would happen if I was to start a discussion stating “if you think flowers being removed is bad, how would you like to hear bodies are being removed from the grave, their final resting place?” Now that is something worth standing up for, bodies versus flowers.

I feel sorry for you Kahu Kekuna for ultimately this burden falls upon you. You are the senior pastor, the kahu, the leader. It is not too late, make a stand, do what is right. These are burials in your cemetery representing the foundational families of your church. If you don’t stop this now who is to stop the future leaders and church members from taking out more bodies?

Our kūpuna taught us, “Mai kaula‘i nā iwi o nā kūpuna i ka lā!” (Do not expose the bones of the ancestors to the sun!) This saying is both literal and poetic, and it would be helpful if you and your congregation took it to heart.

Below, is a brief record of my kūpuna – ‘ohana, and their place at Kawaiaha‘o. I’m also attaching as a separate file, selected certificates documenting my kūpuna at Kawaiaha‘o, and my descent from them. The genealogy is summarized below:

Lillian Lā‘ieloehlohe Kapukui married Walter Melville Pomroy in 1890, and to them were born:

Jane Kalaniwela Pomroy, March 21, 1891
Edward Matthew Halu‘apo Pomroy, October 15, 1892
Clara Louise Ka‘aimahu‘i Pomroy, April 17, 1895
Samuel Lawrence Pomroy, October 8, 1897 (died, March 21, 1900, buried at Kawaiaha‘o)
Louis Melville Pomroy, January 19, 1900
Harry Kind Pomroy, March 28, 1903
Eva Maua‘eikaluaolonoikahiki Pomroy, November 27, 1904
Walter Pomroy (died at birth)

Lillian Lā‘ielohelohe Kapukui Pomroy died on February 17, 1910, of complications from pregnancy, and was buried with her unborn child, at Kawaiaha‘o Cemetery. 

Laie Kapukui Pomroy

Lillian Lā‘ielohelohe Kapukui Pomroy is my great grandmother;

Her son, Louis Melville Pomroy, is my grandfather.

His son, Walter Melville Kaiapa Pomroy, is my father.

(Certificates Attached in Transmittal to Kahu Kekuna)

The names and numbers of people who have been interred at Kawaiaha‘o are not all known. But from a simple review of historical records, we begin to comprehend that hundreds of families who are affected by the actions of Kawaiaha‘o in this present time.

On the following pages are the names of a few kūpuna who are recorded as being buried at Kawaiaha‘o Church in the past. As you read each name, feel love, feel compassion, let them touch your hearts. They were laid in their final resting place forever, please let them remain. Do not remove anyone else.

Na‘u no me ke aloha o ke Akua, 


Irmalee Kamakaonaona Pomroy Maly

“And Jacob set up a monument of stones upon her grave, and it is there to this day.” Genesis 35:20 (The Living Bible) 

cc: OHA Trustees and concerned parties 

Kawaiahao Cemetery Concerns Continued

March 14, 2011

From: Irmalee Kamakaonaona “Onaona” Pomroy Maly

To: Kawaiaha‘o Church
Attn: Pastor Curtis Kekuna, Senior Pastor
957 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

RE: Uncalled for Arrest of Kamuela Kala‘i and Ka‘anohi Kaleikini; Family Burials at Kawaiaha‘o Church Cemetery; and concern regarding ‘ohana buried in Kawaiaha‘o Church Cemetery.

Pastor Curtis Kekuna,

I am saddened by your actions in advocating for the arrest of Kamuela Kala’i and Ka‘anohi Kaleikini who were brave enough to stand up and voice their mana‘o in the care of iwi kūpuna at Kawaiaha‘o Church Cemetery. I pray that you will see the hewa in the action which you caused to be set in place — not allowing Kamuela or Ka‘anohi to be on church/cemetery property for one year — will be removed immediately. How can any good Christian bar these ladies from visiting their kūpuna, and all because they are trying to protect them from additional harm, and to return those kūpuna who have been in the basement for over one year in the ground where they belong? Will you do the same to any others of the ‘ohana who might try to visit the pā ilina of their kupuna, or try to determine where their elders remains are?

I am also informing you we are missing another family member, Luther Aholo. According to Kupuna Frances Hi‘ileilani “Mele” Apaka Mahelona who will be 91 years young in April, she remembers Kupuna Aholo was buried behind King Lunalilo’s tomb. He is in an unmarked grave. I would like to know if your archive has any maps or documentation available for us as ‘ohana to have a more definite location of where he is located. We would like to make arrangements for a plaque or a grave marker to be set in place in his honor where he is buried. Luther Aholo was an important figure in the Hawaiian Monarchy, and his daughter, Lydia K. Aholo was the hānai of Queen Lili‘uokalani. Kupuna Mahelona also shared that other family members, Charlotte Aholo Kahalewai and son, Carl Kahalewai are also buried at Kawaiaha‘o.

So, what is the protocol to engage in researching and marking unmarked graves of ‘ohana? We want to make sure to obtain permission from you and your congregation before any plans are set in place. Once we hear back from you I will pass on the information to other family members. I hope to receive a reply from you in writing soon.

Attached is the Genealogy of the Pule & Puali to the Mahoe-Adams Family of which my mother is Irmalee Kamakaonaona Adams Pomroy, under the Mahoe-Adams line which shows our blood relation to Luther Aholo.

I am also concerned and will come forward as additional ‘ohana through marriage, Emma Lahapa Bush, Harry Bush, Kahalewai “Kepeni” and Harry Kapuhiliokalani Bush, Emma Bush & Kahalewai “Kepeni” and C.B. Maile. The Bush and Maile families are part of the Kapukui-Pomroy genealogy. I have documentation prepared by our grand aunt, Mary Kawena Wiggin-Pukui which shows these family ties.

How much family information is needed from you and what do you do with this information? I have yet to receive a reply from you with regards if you accepted me as a lineal descendent to my great grandmother La‘ielohelohe Kapukui Pomroy and grand uncle Samuel Lawrence Pomroy genealogy even though documents were submitted to you on February 14, 2011.

Also, I do not give you or those you work with permission to use the mo‘okū‘auhau (genealogical and anecdotal family) information in any other way, nor to distribute it to any other party. It is strictly to be used for determination of genealogical descent from Kūpuna interred at Kawaiaha‘o only.

I will continue to research Family Obituaries at Kawaiaha‘o, as well as articles of interest pertaining to Kawaiaha‘o. Contrary to popular belief by yourself and some members of your congregation, Kūpuna buried at Kawaiaha‘o are known and by reading their obituaries the voices of their families bring forward reminders of their lives, and the truth that they are there. The elders who are our earthly foundation, do count and they are somebody. Take the time to read their names, catch a glimpse of who they are, let them touch your heart. Leave them alone, do not dig up any more of our ancestor’s bones, let them rest forever more and to be at peace as how God intended for them to be.

Another concern of mine is to make sure that anything/everything that was buried with the iwi kūpuna must remain with the specific iwi kupuna (moe pū), for that was the intent at the time of burial. Since you should not have dug them up in the first place, these kinds of issues would never have had to be considered. But because you, as the pastor of this church, and your members allowed this hewa act, it now becomes your kuleana to make sure nothing is separated from the ones for whom these moe pū were intended.

Aloha ke Akua,


Irmalee Kamakaonaona Pomroy Maly

Attachment: Mo‘okū‘auhau Pule-Puali to Pastor Kekuna only

cc. Trustees, Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Clyde Namu‘o, OHA Chief Executive Officer
Governor Abercrombie, State of Hawaii
Interested Parties

Family Obituaries - Kawaiaha‘o Cemetery
(Partial working list of names from historic newspapers of Hawai‘i)