PAUL HARADA / 1926-2008
Sheriff of Kalaupapa demystified disease
He didn't seek an activist role but through his hard-working and faith-filled life, Paul Harada educated people about the place he loved and the disease that changed thousands of lives.
Harada was taken from his Kauai family as a teenager and was sent to Kalaupapa, where people afflicted with Hansen's disease were quarantined.
And there he thrived, holding a variety of jobs including sheriff, from which he retired.
"He was a gardener and a fisherman, but fisherman came first," said his wife, Winnie, whom he married in 1955. Although she traveled many times to the mainland and Europe, he rarely left the remote Molokai community even after quarantine was lifted in 1969.
"He hated to leave Kalaupapa," said his younger brother, Glenn Harada of Oahu. "Even when he came to family celebrations on Kauai, he couldn't wait to get back."
Paul Harada, 81, stayed on Oahu for months last year under treatment for lung cancer, but when the end was near, he was returned to Kalaupapa. He died Jan. 4.
Glenn Harada wrote about his brother as an "untouchable hero." Once sulfone medication controlled his disease, the older brother was allowed to visit his family but children had to stay elsewhere and there were no hugs allowed.
"He taught us to love the ocean," said Glenn Harada. There was family history in which his brothers and cousins nearly drowned at Lumahai Beach "so we were afraid of the ocean. We would go diving with him, he shed the mystery for us."
For younger generations of nieces and nephews, he shed the mystery of the disease as one youngster and another interviewed him and wrote school papers about him.
At his brother's invitation, Paul Harada came to Honolulu to speak to a Baptist Church social ministries conference. "He held the group for three hours. He was completely open and he really touched a nerve. There was talk at that time about quarantine for AIDS victims and he said quarantine was not the answer," said Glenn Harada.
"He was thoughtful about what he said," Harada said. "One time he said, 'If I had been able to go to the university, I would have been a philosopher.' "
Said Patrick Downes, Hawaii Catholic Herald editor: "He had no regrets how his life turned out. This disease he got led to so many things. He said he would never have been a Catholic and never have met Winnie."
Harada talked about his conversion to Catholicism as a teenager. "After he lived his faith, he realized what a great gift he had received," said Downes.
Harada attended daily Mass at St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa.
Harada is survived by his wife, Winnie; brothers Takeshi, Takayuki, Kikuo and Glenn; sisters Masa Williams, Fumiko Hashimoto and Carolyn Nakamura; nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Olivet Baptist Church, 1775 S. Beretania St. Friends may call after 10 a.m.