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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, January 4, 2001


Owl stands sentry
over cancer patients

THERE'S a very special, quite spiritual Hawaiian owl, a pueo, staring at passersby in Nuuanu Valley.

Carved from a giant Hawaiian bluestone, it stands 6 feet high on the lawn of the old mansion that now is state headquarters for the American Cancer Society.

This is at the intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Wyllie, at the Wyllie Street exit from Pali Highway.

The late Monsignor Charles Kekumano asked for the owl as a protector or 'aumakua for other cancer patients. This was just before his death from prostate cancer three years ago.




His great friend and Hawaiian grand dame, Gladys Brandt, age 94, was at his bedside as he died very peacefully. She brought the protector owl to reality with the help of friends who couldn't tell her no.

Kekumano was the first Catholic monsignor of Hawaiian ancestry. He was a great story teller with a kindly sense of humor, active in civic affairs, a Cancer Society board member and headed the Liliuokalani Trust. He was one of the five authors of "Broken Trust," the essay that brought reform to the Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate.

Kekumano was diagnosed with cancer at the height of the Bishop Estate controversy but continued as active as possible until his death four months later on Jan. 19, 1998.

Brandt initiated the fund-raising for the pueo and contributed herself. She has been a leading educator and onetime principal at Kamehameha Schools. I am fully prepared to believe the sculpture is one of his spiritual residences. Visit it and draw strength. Sculptor C.W. Watson must have done so, too.

GRADUALLY cancer in Hawaii and throughout the United States is yielding to earlier detection, better treatment and better life patterns. The incidence of new cases crested two years ago and now is showing its first recorded declines.

The national goal of the American Cancer Society is a 25 percent drop in new cases by 2015 and a far greater -- 50 percent -- reduction in deaths.

ACS here cooperates where it can with the Cancer Research Center of the University of Hawaii. It promotes cancer education and help to patients. Its No. 1 message is to stop smoking. As that happens, new cases in Hawaii should decline from their present level of 4,300 a year.

ACS works with schools and the state Legislature, where it won passage of a law requiring health insurance companies to cover mammography tests.

Dr. Reginald Ho of Straub Clinic, still active as a volunteer, was national president of ACS in 1993. He successfully worked to promote more emphasis on pain control for all patients, not just those who might be terminal.

The state ACS program is headed by Gretchen Neal, chief operating officer for 16 years. County and Pacific area societies support its work.



A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.




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