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News and Events

‘Never conquered’

Lee Lacocca - Thursday, May 23, 2019

By Bill Buley The Garden Island | Friday, May 3, 2019, 12:05 a.m.

For decades, when Billy Lemn drove through Lihue, he would ask his wife why there were no statues of the island’s past rulers.

“Where was the Hawaiian?” the Anahola man would say.

Luella Lemn said this went on for nearly 60 years — until she could take it no more.

”I am tired of you saying the same thing over and over, ‘Where is the Hawaiian?’” she told him. “Why don’t you do something about it?”

Her husband loved to doodle, so she suggested, “Why don’t you draw something?”

“He just looked at me. He didn’t say anything,” Luella added.

But Billy Lemn was thinking about it.

A few months later, he produced a drawing of Kauai’s King Kaumuali‘i (1778-1824) and Queen Deborah Kapule (1798-1853).

His wife approved.

Billy Lemn then wondered, where could they put statues of Kauai’s and Ni‘ihau’s last king and queen. The airport? State land? Nothing seemed right until a family member suggested the Kauai Museum.

“That is the perfect place,” Billy Lemn said.

Saturday, two prototype statues of Ali‘i Aimoku Kaumuali‘i and Mo‘i Wahine Kekaiha‘Akulou will be unveiled in a special ceremony from 9 to 11 a.m. in front of the Kauai Museum. A luau, $25, will follow. The public is welcome.

Chucky Boy Chock, museum director, is delighted to honor Kaumuali‘i. He said he was a man with courage and compassion.

“He’s the kind of person you want to follow as a leader,” Chock said.

The statues, still under construction, are being created by Chris O’Conner, who moved to Kauai a few years ago.

Billy and Luella Lemn said the life-sized statues will be welcoming and inviting.

“The statues will open the doors. People are going to wonder, ‘Who are those people?’ And they will begin to tell the story,” Luella said.

Education on the island’s history is important, said Luella, who taught for many years.

“I realized a lot of kids had no clue as to the history of their island or of Hawaii. I think it’s important to kind of bring a melding of all the people to come here,” she said. “I’m thinking that through the museum and by their educating tourists as well as the people who live here, you will reach a different level.”

Billy Lemn said when he came to Chock with the idea of honoring King Kaumuali‘i and Queen Kapule about two and a half years ago, “I saw him just brighten up.”

They quickly began formulating a plan, and when O’Conner came into the picture, things fell into place.

Still, it was a long, sometimes challenging process, passing through several steps for approval.

But it was worth all the effort, Chock said. He believes it will pique people’s interest in Kauai’s history while honoring its great leaders.

“The educational component is the most valuable piece in this,” he said.

He said O’Conner was key to the project — it’s designer and creator — and has been a blessing.

“There’s only one other person in the state who does bronze statues,” Chock said.

O’Conner was pleased to be part of it. To save money, they purchased equipment to do the work here, including a kiln from California.

“They all just gave me a lot of freedom to go in and come up with what I felt,” he said.

Billy Lemn said in his research, he found that when King Kamehameha I was going to again try and conquer Kauai, this time with more ships, guns, and warriors, Kaumuali‘i sailed to Oahu to see him.

Kaumuali‘i, Lemn said, told Kamehameha he didn’t want him to invade Kauai because he knew many of his people would be killed, so he told him not to come, that Kauai was his.

“He didn’t know if he would live or die,” Billy Lemn said.

He added, with a big smile, Kamehameha agreed with the terms and Kauai was never conquered.

“Never conquered,” Billy Lemn repeated. “All of us should be proud. People always say we’re different because we were never conquered.”

Luella Lemn said people who live on Kauai need to know and appreciate it.

“It’s not only a beautiful island,” she said. “But it’s special. There is something special about it.”

Her husband says he knows why it’s special: Because Kaumuali‘i was a nobleman, a great warrior, and a strong but kind ruler.

“He was willing to sacrifice himself for his people,” Billy Lemn said.

He is looking forward to Saturday’s unveiling.

“I just want to have an area feel Kaumuali‘i’s presence here,” Billy Lemn said, to remind people, “at one time this was a kingdom, ruled by kings.”

Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.