Hilo family enjoys epic saga


POSTED: Sunday, December 07, 2008

HILO » Rupert Buntin, 75, and his wife, Carrol, 69, are the elders of a restless, creative family with a total of 51 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whose traditions range from boat building to belly dancing to Bible-based Christian Zionism.





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As Lobo Del Mar, they provide tours, activities, and entertainment in Hilo, running their business like a communal kibbutz.

For amusement, they do offbeat things like tattooing each other and studying Hebrew.

This is not what Carrol Hanchey expected when she married fellow Texan Rupert Buntin in 1960. But an injury he suffered in 1976 shunted him from his work as a welder to decades of sailing the family between Alaska and Mexico.

Carrol summed this up in the title of her 2005 book, “;The Family that Went Down to the Sea.”;

She had hoped for a house with a picket fence. She got 11 children and life on a series of boats. When the family wasn't sailing, “;Rup”; and the children, including the girls, were building boats or a hovercraft or a gyrocopter.

When Rup wasn't building, he used heavy cords to tie intricate macrame projects like bags and bridles.

Carrol's book has only a scattering of dates to anchor events. Rup and Carrol's life is more like the wash of the waves.

How could anyone tie dates to the half-dozen times they rode a motorcycle from Ketchikan, Alaska, to the family home in Gorman, Texas, with Rup at the handlebars and Carrol writing poetry in a side car?

About 1976 they got their first boat, the Sea Wolf, followed by the Lobo Del Mar, which gave the family its business name.

Living on boats, their children were home-schooled. Their parents were serious about studies.

“;We were students seven days a week,”; said son Brady. He makes finely crafted wooden folk instruments and sells them in the Hilo farmers market while wearing a kilt.

Brady is also the one who completed the state of Alaska's entire second-grade course in seven weeks.

His sister Brena got her high school equivalency degree at age 15 and went straight to work at a bank. She now keeps the family's financial books.

Carrol developed “;love handles”; at some point, so she started belly dancing to lose weight. The hobby developed into a family dance company that continues to entertain people with Polynesian, Irish, flamenco and belly dancing.

In 1993, the whole family moved from Alaska to Puerto Penasco at the northern end of the Gulf of Mexico, and started a charter boat business with snorkeling, diving, and parasailing. The boys married Mexican women and the whole family become bilingual.

In 2005, Rup and Carol came to Hilo, following some of the boys who worked here as early as the 1980s.

If this is too much to remember, just read the family history in the tattoos on son Rett's shoulder: “;Sea Wolf”; in Hebrew, Star of David, Confederate flag. “;Robert E. Lee was my grandmother's uncle,”; Rup said.

And notice the tattooed bow with a quiver of arrows. It's a Biblical reference to a “;quiver”; full of children.