Friday, November 26, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Bernard Cleveland, wife Jody and daughter Brittine
enjoy Thanksgiving Day food and entertainment at
the Waianae High School cafeteria.

Musashimaru gave
Waianae a feast

Turkey, ham, stuffing, rice,
corn, pies and cake were offered to all

By Treena Shapiro


Friends say sumo wrestler Musashimaru never forgot where he came from. Yesterday, they got proof when he invited Waianae residents to share a Thanksgiving meal at his alma mater, Waianae High School.

Since he was still in Japan after winning his fourth of six tournaments this year, Musashimaru enlisted help from his family and friends to organize what he thought would be a feast for 500 homeless people.

But his mother, Nimala Penitani, overbought -- 100 26-pound turkeys, a refrigerator-sized container full of canned ham, stuffing, corn, rice, rolls, pumpkin pie and cake -- and since there was food enough for more than 1,000 people, the family opened it to the community as a way of giving thanks. The family planned to distribute any leftovers to the homeless.

A large portrait of Musashimaru, who
sponsored the event, looks on as a
Tahitian troupe performs.

"We wanted to say thank you to them for cheering for him when he went to Japan," Penitani said.

Food preparation took about two days, according to Margaret Gaspar, cafeteria baker in charge of the cooking. Gaspar knew Musashimaru, or Fiamalu Penitani, when he was a high school football player working with his teammates in the cafeteria, and was happy to help with the project.

Gaspar said Musashimaru always visits the high school when he's in Hawaii. "When he comes back home, he doesn't let this get to his head. He's the same Fiamalu we always knew," she said.

Even those who didn't know Musashimaru personally came out to show their support. Faafetai Iosefa, 27, stopped in before she went to spend the holiday with her family. "Why not, it's free food," she joked. "But it's more than that. He's a Samoan helping out the community. Now, you rarely see that happen," she explained. "I came here to thank him, to give him the support of the community."

City Councilman Mufi Hannemann, taking part in the festivities, called the event "a class act."

"It shows what kind of person Musashimaru is and what kind of family he came from," Hannemann said.

The Penitanis, besides contributing the food, dug two "umus," or imus, in their yard and cooked the turkeys themselves.

The promise of free turkey was a big draw. In one hour, about 300 meals already had been served, and there were three hours left to go. Nani Ledward, 38, a Makaha resident, stopped by to eat and check out the entertainment before bringing a turkey of her own over to her parents' house in Nanakuli. "I'll eat as much as my stomach can hold," she said.

Ledward, wearing a dress for her first meal of the day, said she'd have to change after she moved on to her second.

"I'll be sleeping in my lavalava tonight," she said.

E-mail to City Desk

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