Ka‘aha‘aina, Mary Ann Kanani Cordes

Author: 
Le‘a Ka‘aha‘aina

 

Mary Ann Kanani Cordes Ka‘aha‘aina.
Photos: courtesy of Kalehua Lima
 

‘O Kanani Ulili ko‘u kupunawahine kuakahi
‘O Naeole ko‘u kupunakāne kuakahi
Noho pū lāua a hānau ‘ia ‘o Mary-Ann Cordes
‘O Mary-Ann Cordes ko‘u kupunawahine
‘O David Ka‘aha‘aina ko‘u kupunakāne
Noho pū lāua a hānau ‘ia ‘o Solomon Ka‘aha‘aina
‘O Lisa Ferentinos ko‘u makuahine
‘O Solomon Ka‘aha‘aina ko‘u makuakāne
Noho pū lāua a hānau ‘ia ‘o Le‘a a ‘o Kamakakai
‘O wau ‘o Le‘a Ariane Ka‘aha‘aina ka hiapo
E ola ka hāloa o ku‘u ‘ohana

"Nānākuli Grandma" was what I called Mary Ann Cordes Ka‘aha‘aina, and it was a name that fit her well. My grandmother was born on Webb Lane in Honolulu on April 22, 1912, but lived out in Nānākuli for most of her life. She had seven brothers and sisters that were all older than her, as she was the youngest. Mary Ann was a generous mother and grandmother who tried her best to provide for her family.

Mary Ann attended both Wai‘anae and McKinley High Schools, and graduated in 1931. That same year, she was married to David Komomua Ka‘aha‘aina and their first child, David, was born soon after. In the following years, they received a Hawaiian Homestead lot in Nānākuli that still belongs to our family. Here, six more children were born to Mary Ann and David, my father Solomon among them. However, my grandfather worked on ships that traveled back and forth between the mainland and Hawai‘i and was often away from home. To compensate, my grandmother worked two jobs, then came home and cooked dinner for seven children without the help of her husband. She managed to get food on the table every night and worked very hard to keep it that way.

Mary Ann believed for her entire life that her parents were Gustav Cordes and Mary Ann Kanani Ulili. However, in the later years of her life, it was proposed that her father was not Gustav Cordes, but instead a Chinese-Hawaiian man named Naeole. It was said that the last three children of Kanani Ulili and Gustav all looked suspiciously Chinese, and that Kanani had taken up another spouse when Gustav fell ill. After Gustav became ill, Kanani took good care of him and stayed married to him even though she was with someone else. My grandma couldn’t understand this in her old age and died believing her father was Gustav Cordes. Now, the story is no longer just a story, and I have "Chinese" written on my birth certificate, not "German."

After Mary Ann retired, she took care of her numerous grandchildren and baked all kinds of cakes and pies. According to one of her grandchildren, she baked some of the richest brownies around. She also tended to her yard, the same yard she had lived in for many years. As the years wore on, her health deteriorated, and by the time I had come along, she was no longer the same person. She passed away at age 87 in December of 1998. She was a hard worker that gave unselfishly. She was a living example of this ‘ōlelo no‘eau, "Ka hā‘awi a ka mea hale, koe koena ‘ole ma ku‘ono" -- "Giving as a house owner does, with nothing left hidden in the corners." Said of a generous person who gives freely all he has.