FADING AWAY IN WAIPAHU
link to the past
Few remember who was buriedBy Mary Adamski
in the plantation workers' graves
early in the century
An old Catholic cemetery on Waikele Road offers a glimpse into Waipahu history in the midst of modern development. Portuguese and Filipino employees of Oahu Sugar Co. were buried in the graveyard early in this century.
Catholic diocese records show that the land was purchased in 1860 from a Hawaiian chief, and a small chapel was built there.
In 1902, a church was built at the site with the help of plantation manager August Ahrens, whose name graces a Waipahu public school.
In 1939, another sugar plantation manager, Hans L'Orange, whose name was given to an area park, proposed relocation of St. Joseph Church to its present location on Farrington Highway.
Waipahu historian Ernest Malterre said that outside the memories of survivors, there is no record of burials. Time and the elements have eroded information carved on the gravestones.
Malterre said there were no burials at the site after the new church was completed in 1941. In more recent years, apartments were built nearby on the site of the old plantation cemetery after the bodies were moved to Mililani Memorial Park.
Malterre, 83, said the cemetery has fallen into disrepair in recent years as people of his generation, who had connections with those buried there, have become too old to tend it. Adding to its neglected state is its proximity to Waipahu Elementary School.
The cemetery is used for parking and student pickup by families who dump trash there, Malterre said. Gravestones in the past have been defaced by spray-painted graffiti.
"There's a lot of stories there, but there aren't many living souls who remember them," said Malterre.