By Star-Bulletin Staff

Saturday, January 17, 1998


By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Cher Tendarvis of San Diego, Calif., who was on the Women's Pro Tour
in the 1970s with Rell Sunn, touched the late Makaha surfer's favorite
aloha shirt Saturday morning before services began.

Thousands bid farewell to Rell Sunn,
renaissance Hawaiian and surfing legend,
as she returns to the waters she loved

By Helen Altonn

The waters off Makaha Beach were cleared Saturday morning for a beloved Hawaii surfer catching a last wave.

"The only person who is going to be surfing will be Rell Sunn," said Brian Keaulana, a part-time lifeguard and former city captain of lifeguards.

"We're putting her to rest at the Makaha Blowhole, where she usually catches all the waves. She wants to be paddled out in her canoe, and we can't have any surfers in the way."

Thousands gathered at the beach to bid aloha to 47-year-old Makaha native Rella Kapolioka'ehukai (bosom of the sea spray) Sunn. On Maui a helicopter flower drop and community remembrance were to be held at Kihei Cave.

The Hall of Fame surfer and multitalented woman died Jan. 2 after a 15-year battle with breast cancer.

Services began at about 10 a.m. to catch the morning light, said Sunn's husband, Dave Parmenter. "Rell liked the mornings."

People started arriving at the beach before dawn, some setting up tents. Hundreds had gathered two hours before the services in a rain that many interpreted as a Hawaiian blessing.

Some came from the mainland. Cher Tendarvis of San Diego arrived with her husband and was one of the those who surfed 5- to 6-foot waves before the ceremony.

Tendarvis said she met Sunn on the West Coast in 1975 when they were practicing for the first women's professional surfing meet. Sunn told her they always would be surfing together "because the ocean always connected us."

"She inspired so much," she said. "Her courage and bravery were absolutely inspirational."

A large tent was set up on the beach, sheltering pictures of Sunn's life and mementos like her surfboard, nets and diving fins. "Unreal," said one man looking at the photographs. "Unreal. She had a good life."

Sunn's ashes were placed in an urn made from a glass ball from her collection, etched with the images of an octopus, fish and waves and with the words "Aloha, Queen of Makaha."

The services began with the blowing of conch shells as a mist hung over the Waianae mountain range. In a tribute, Puakea Nogelmeier said those touched by Sunn are connected "one to another like flowers in a lei."

Although the many people who knew Sunn weren't able to talk about her at the service, they were asked to participate in a Ho'okupu (offering) ceremony.

They were invited to take a little water from where they surf to put in a wooden bowl, and some sand from their beaches to put on Makaha Beach. Sand and water came from as far as Australia and Fiji, with all of Hawaii's islands represented.

Rella Kapolioka'ehukai


"Because Rell has touched so many people, she also touched many shores and touched many oceans," Keaulana said. "This is a way of giving back and closure, like an ocean community around the world."

People hugged and consoled one another, but along with the memories there was still a joyous feeling, which friends said reflected Sunn's character. One man brought pigeons dyed with food coloring in shades of purple, pink and yellow.

The Hawai'i Loa voyaging canoe waited offshore to take Sunn's family members to the blowhole.

"It's a soft day," said surfer Fred Hemmings.

Despite the crowds, things were running smoothly, with people assigned to direct traffic and parking.

Keaulana had advised those attending the services: "Don't come with beer to drown your sorrows and expect a party. That is not what she was about. She was into health and environment."

He suggested "hugging one another and enjoying the ocean" as the best way to honor her.

People were asked to remove strings from leis or just take flowers. "She would never like marine life to get hurt in any way," Keaulana said.

KHON newscaster Ron Mizutani was to give the eulogy.

Family members didn't think they could say anything without losing composure, although someone might say farewell at the end, Parmenter said.

"Words and stories fall short of someone like Rell," he said. "She was the most extraordinary person I ever heard or read of.... She had quite a life."

She was a "renaissance Hawaiian," he said, skilled at writing, dancing hula, paddling an outrigger canoe and teaching.

She also had been a disc jockey, radio surf reporter, TV commentator, video star, lifeguard and Hokule'a crew member. She was an ambassador for Makaha and surfing, and an advocate of cancer screening and treatment.

Volunteers have been meeting for three weeks to coordinate Sunn's services, Keaulana said.

She had asked that Awana Salazar perform "Friends Who Rode the Waves," a favorite song, as her ashes are taken to the ocean.

After the canoe returns to shore, Keaulana said lifeguards would help 20 to 40 people at a time go into the surf.

"We're trying to minimize anyone getting injured in any way. What we try to tell people is, to honor Rell is to respect her lifestyle and caring for each other."

Century Center fire
terrified many

A fire in the 41-story Century Center hospitalized three occupants and trapped and terrified others as black smoke billowed up a stairwell like a chimney.

"I kept calling 911, I was so scared, so panicked," said a 51-year-old woman who was stranded in her apartment and taken to Queen's Hospital, where she was treated and released. "I thought I was going to die."

The blaze started at 2:29 p.m. Friday on the eighth floor of the mirror-glassed tower outside Waikiki at 1750 Kalakaua Avenue.

Most of the damage was in units 811 and 812, although flames lapped up to a ninth-floor unit where the heat was intense enough to break a window, said Acting Assistant Fire Chief Kenneth Word.

Fifteen fire units - including seven engine companies, three ladder companies and the hazardous materials unit - responded to the fire, which was brought under control at 4:09 p.m.

Word said the building is very secure and firefighters could not make immediate entry to the eighth floor to fight the blaze, which he described as hot and smokey.

"We had to break through doors," he said.

Some upper-floor occupants were stranded and firefighters had to rescue them, Word said. About a dozen people sought refuge on the roof.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but fire department officials said it started in the kitchen stove of unit 811.

James Langan, 28, a Kapiolani Community College student, said he and a friend, Alex Pantazonis, 30, were moving items into the unit from a van and were downstairs when alarms went off. He didn't know what ignited the fire, he said.

"We were up there three minutes before," said Langan. "Everything was all right then."

Estate's hiring of computer firm raises questions

A computer consulting company that came under fire for receiving millions of dollars in nonbid state contracts during Gov. John Waihee's tenure has become a big recipient of nonbid work at Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate.

Data House Inc. conducted more than $900,000 in computer consulting work for Bishop Estate during its 1995-1996 fiscal year, according to a Star-Bulletin review of the estate's expenses.

Prior to that, the company had conducted less than $17,000 in work for the estate during fiscal 1994-1995.

Critics point to the close relationship between Data House founder and President Daniel Arita and the estate's principal executive for budget and review, former state Budget Director Yukio Takemoto.

Data House's work for the estate may come under scrutiny by state Attorney General Margery Bronster, who is investigating allegations of financial mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duties by Bishop Estate trustees.

As part of her investigation, Bronster has subpoenaed the estate for information involving all nonbid and bid contracts over $100,000.

Both the estate and Arita said Data House's relationship with Takemoto played no role in the company's work with the estate.

The two have been golfing partners for years, and their relationship came under scrutiny in 1994 after a special state Senate committee found that the Waihee administration awarded Data House nearly $12.9 million in state contracts between 1987 and 1992. Most of those contracts were made on a nonbid basis.

Takemoto resigned under pressure as Waihee's budget director in December 1994 and joined the estate the following February.

More subpoenas to come in probe of Bishop Estate

The state attorney general's office has issued about 100 subpoenas in its ongoing investigation of the Bishop Estate.

Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya said the state may end up issuing another 100 subpoenas in the probe.

The large number of subpoenas underscores the growing scope of the investigation, which began in August.

"What we are investigating are allegations of financial mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duties," Goya said. "We have not stopped issuing subpoenas."

While some of the subpoenas cover routine background information about the estate, many seek business documents and interviews with estate employees and business partners, according to the state.

But Bishop Estate's lawyers have argued that the state's requests for information have been overly broad and have come at a huge cost to the nonprofit trust.

The disclosures came after Circuit Judge Kevin Chang yesterday ruled in favor of the attorney general's subpoena for tax documents filed by the estate with the Internal Revenue Service.

Chang ruled that the IRS documents must be handed over to the estate by Feb. 6 but the state must keep the contents of the IRS documents confidential.

The IRS has been conducting an audit of the estate, and the state has argued that the IRS documents would show if trustees received personal benefits, perks or other payments at the expense of the estate.

See expanded coverage in Saturday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
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