RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Habitat for Humanity is helping Lisa Frank, back row center, and her family rebuild a home that once housed five generations. In the back row are Lisa, center; her father, Manuel Maldonado Jr.; and her daughter, Dinah Frank. In front are her grandchildren: Kaipo, 3, left, Kekai, 4, and Jesri, 2.
A 1948 homestead is being rebuilt to fulfill a matriarch's dream
The Papakolea home that once housed five generations of Elizabeth Kealohamakua Opulauoho Silva's family at a time is coming down, a victim of termites.
Silva died last year at the age of 93 without realizing her dream -- "build a big house for generations to come" -- but granddaughter Lisa Mieu Lan Frank has enlisted Habitat for Humanity to build one in her memory.
Elizabeth K.O. Silva
It will go up on the same Hawaiian Homesteads site of Silva's original house. The weather-beaten, termite-eaten house on Krauss Street will be demolished Saturday.
Kicking off the demolition will be a ceremony not usually held for Habitat projects. In attendance will be U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and U.S. Rep. Ed Case, to commemorate Hawaii's first national Community Build Day.
Bank of Hawaii, as part of the national effort, donated $15,000 and will provide 20 volunteers on various weekends, alternating with other Habitat vounteers,* until the house is completed over the next eight months, said Stafford Kiguchi, bank senior vice president.
At one time, five generations lived at the home -- Silva, her daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughters and great-great-granddaughters, Frank said.
Silva scraped together enough money by selling leis at 5 to 10 cents apiece to claim her 6,300-square-foot homestead property in 1948. With no money to build a house at first, Silva transported the Kakaako military Quonset hut they were living in up the Punchbowl hillside, Frank said. The five generations who lived there and moved on all helped in the making of leis to support the household, she said.
"She wanted us to build a big house for generations to come. ... Her blessing in life was family. Her riches was family. She asked my mom to build her a (new) house," Frank said.
But Frank's mother, Lily Mieu Lan Silva Maldonado, died in 2000, and Frank inherited the home. She wants to carry on her grandmother's wishes for her own children and grandchildren.
Frank's father, Manuel Maldonado Jr., built the original two-story house with contractor friends 33 years ago for $20,000 to replace the Quonset hut. They and other family members will help provide the "sweat equity" required by Habitat, which is building the house for $85,000. Still awaiting final plan approval, the new house will include seven bedrooms and two full baths.
Termites have chewed holes through the roof and floors that became larger every time it rained and the wood rotted. In the last few years, Maldonado was the only one who dared occupy one of two bedrooms on the upper floor and the kitchen, which were safe for habitation, he said. The rest of the family lived below, converting the patios to living quarters.
Frank joked, "Only Dad lives on the top floor. He's skinny. He can hang on to the walls (if the floor gives out)."
Maldonado said he was not afraid that the roof would fall on him, because "I am a very light sleeper, and I could always jump out the window." The holes throughout the house made living conditions rather cold at times, and "there were lots of birds singing to you at night," he said, laughing.
Frank is sad that her grandmother will not be there.
"She could tell when we were sick as soon as we walked in the door. She was like my mother. And there was something about sleeping in her bed -- you could sleep there and you would have no worries," Frank said.
Maldonado added, "It would've been nice for Grandma to see it."
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
» Bank of Hawaii volunteers will be working on a Habitat for Humanity house on various weekends, alternating with other Habitat volunteers. A Page A3 article in yesterday's early edition incorrectly reported that the bank volunteers will be providing labor every weekend until the house is completed.