Mentor helped steer neighborhood boards
Benjamin Kama / 1943-2007
Oahu neighborhood board members remember Benjamin Kama Jr. for his patience in helping them steer the grass-roots boards to reflect residents' concerns.
He retired as executive secretary of the Neighborhood Commission in January 2005 after 19 years with the agency that administers the 32 elected boards. He had served on the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board before former Mayor Frank Fasi appointed him to the commission office as supervisor of board administrative assistants. Former Mayor Jeremy Harris named him to the executive position in 1995.
Kama, 63, died Feb. 13 in Kaiser Medical Center.
"He was extremely helpful to the boards," said Lynn Matusow, of the Downtown Neighborhood Board. "He had been a board member, so he could see it from both sides."
Phillip Elsworth of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board said, "He taught me the purpose of the neighborhood board is the citizens' concerns. He encouraged people to go to the meetings so they might share the concerns they have for the community. If all we do is go to the meeting and try to take up all the time, not willing to listen, it becomes troubled waters," he said.
Honolulu City Clerk Denise DeCosta remembers seeking advice from Kama several years ago when she served on the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board. "The chairman was being dictatorial, and no one wanted to challenge him. I asked Ben for the legal procedure to replace the chair. He not only told me how to go about it, he came to the meeting to back me up."
Marvelene Kama said her husband liked to talk about "going from rubbish man to an office job." After leaving a Pearl Harbor refuse driver job because of an injury, he drove a delivery truck. "He said he would pass the University of Hawaii and think he didn't have what it takes for college."
She encouraged him to join her as a student at Windward Community College. "He graduated with a 3.7-point average, then he went to UH. In 1982 he earned a bachelor degree in human development" at the age of 39.
"He was definitely not a militant boss," said Debbie Glanstein, Kailua Neighborhood Board member and former commission staff member. "He was an honest person, someone who would listen to people. He was a good soul."
A service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Downtown Mililani Mortuary. Friends may call after 6 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Waimanalo Ward, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visitation begins at 8 a.m. Burial will be at 1 p.m. in Valley of the Temples. The family suggests aloha attire.
Kama, who was born in Honolulu, is survived by wife Marvelene; son Benjamin III; daughters Kimberlyann Kaupu and Maile Montallana; brothers David, Peter, Samuel, Raphael, Edmund and Elijah; sisters Elizabeth Halahuni, Odelia Kaupu and Jamie Fields; and five grandchildren.