Hawaiian history writer
devoted life to social causes

Emmett Anthony Cahill, the author of several books on Hawaiian history and an activist in social causes, died Sunday at his home in Volcano on the Big Island. He was 90.


Emmett Anthony Cahill: He pushed to make Kalaupapa a national park

Cahill is best known for his books, including "Yesterday at Kalaupapa," relating 125 years of the leprosy settlement, as well as a history of Hawaiian postage stamps, a biography of the early Hawaii settler John Young, illustrated by artist Herb Kane, and a history of the landowning Shipman family of East Hawaii.

Barbara Anderson, a Shipman family member, said she visited Cahill at his home on Saturday, the day before he died. Cahill was "interviewing" the caregiver for Anderson's father, Roy Shipman Blackshear, she said.

"Emmett had a ball" talking to his old friend, her father, Anderson said. "Emmett was bright right to the very end."

Two Cahill books are ready for publication next year, one on royal mausoleums and another on the persecution of Catholics in Hawaii in 1829-1839, said his son Jeremiah in Madison, Wis.

Playwright Peter Charlot described how he and author Scott Stone met periodically with Cahill for sessions they called, with tongue in cheek, "tea and prayers."

Cahill had an affection for liberal Catholic subjects, which he combined with an Irish sense of humor, Charlot said.

After retiring from the Hawaiian Telephone Co. in 1968, Cahill became active in a series of social causes.

He led opposition to a plan to move a state prison from Oahu to Maui, and he served as the Hawaii executive of the John Howard Association, a nonprofit prisoner aid organization.

In the early 1970s, when labor organizer Cesar Chavez was working with migrant agricultural workers in California, Cahill and the late Fumie Ige set up a support group in Hawaii called the United Farmworkers Hawaii Grape Boycott Committee, his son said.

He pushed to make Kalaupapa a national historical park, which he accomplished with the aid of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.

Born in Kenmore, N.Y., he spent his early years in that state until serving in World War II in the Pacific in an artillery unit.

He and his wife, Bernice, moved to Honolulu in 1946, where he worked for the Mutual Telephone Co. Bernice died in 1999. Cahill is survived by sons Jeremiah and Timothy, daughter Winifred and two grandsons.

Resurrection Mass will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Kilauea Military Camp. Celebration of his life, 4-6 p.m. Oct. 16 at Cooper Center, Volcano. Memorials to Hospice of Hilo, 1011 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo, HI 96720.



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