Kaluna, Mary Keola

Kumu Kalehua Lima


Mary Keola Kaluna with baby Everett.
Antone De Coito Vincent.
Photos: courtesy of Kalehua Lima

"Pauahi, you don’t put poi in a square bowl, only round bowl," my tūtū Pauahi Vincent laughs as she recalls this quote from her pure-Hawaiian mother-in-law, my kupunahine kuakahi, Mary Keola Kaluna. Fish and poi was serious business, in fact fishing was Mary’s business. Born in Kaloko, Kona to Puahinano Kahale and Moses Ka‘aihue Kaluna, Mary, also known as Mele, grew to be a dancer, a mother, and a businesswoman who was loved by all.

Mary was lawe hānai ‘ia, or adopted and raised, by her kūpuna William Panoke Kahale and Kupailani Parker in Kona, where the ‘ohana still lived in the ways of ka po‘e kahiko. The ‘ohana would trade fish and other delicacies of the sea with those living inland for coffee and ‘uala once a week. Mary also attended Kohala Seminary School where she was to speak only in English although her first language was ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. Upon graduation, Mary and some classmates traveled to Honolulu to dance hula at ‘Iolani Palace. There she met my kupunakāne kuakahi, Joseph De Coito Vincent, who was in the army. Joseph’s family lived in Waialua. His ancestors came to Hawai‘i from Portugal.

"I thought I married one haole and auē da buggah was Portagee," Mary used to joke as she explained to her children that learning Western ways was of great importance. Mary would not teach any of her children to speak Hawaiian, she would only carry on in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i on occasion with her Hawaiian friends and neighbors.

After my kūpuna kuakahi got married, they moved to the island of Maui where Joseph began a small welding business with which he was to become very successful, along with the added benefits of providing Maui’s elite with the best ‘okolehao in town. After the war, they later relocated with their children to O‘ahu where Mary would manage a loko i‘a in ‘Aiea.

"Mele was fantastic," recalls my tūtū. "She had all the Hawaiians in the area buying her fish." This would become the family’s next venture as they fished and sold ‘awa in the business district now known as ‘A‘ala Park.

At this time the ‘ohana was still living in ‘Aiea near the loko i‘a they managed and my kupunakāne Tony Vincent recalls a mo‘olelo. Moses Ka‘aihue Kaluna, my kupunakāne kualua who spoke very little English, had become friends with a Chinese neighbor, Mr. Lee, who spoke mostly Chinese. Moses and Mr. Lee would spend hours together despite the language barrier and, one night, Mr. Lee made the poisonous balloon fish for dinner. Little did Moses know that Mr. Lee had a special recipe that, when prepared, removed the poisonous parts of the fish. After eating dinner and learning he had consumed the poisonous fish, Moses thought that death awaited him so he went home, he put on his best tuxedo, and held his Holy Bible. When my kupunahine kuakahi Mary came home, she explained in Hawaiian to Moses that he was not going to die and everyone had a laugh. Moses lived for years to come, enjoying singing to his many plants growing in the garden.

Mary Keola Kaluna lived to see her children grow and later her grandchildren as well. My kupuna taught the value of aloha through kindness and hard work. These are the words by which she will always be remembered, "Li’ili‘i mai ke Ali‘i me ke aloha" -- Appreciate what the Lord gives, great or small.