The Old Mormon Church Cemetery at Kalōpā

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History of the Cemetery

Situated off the belt highway, at the 38 mile marker past Pa’auilo town on the way to Honoka’a, is the old LDS (Mormon) graveyard. It sits alongside the old government road, which was the main road around the island before the belt highway was built.

The cemetery was originally part of the church grounds for the Kalōpā branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In the early 1900’s, Charles Peleioholani Keko'olani (1875-1942) was a branch leader and the Keko'olani and Keomalu families compromised the bulk of the Mormon community in Kalōpā and Honoka'a.

There used to be a little LDS (Mormon) chapel on the same lot as the cemetery before a new chapel was later built near the Keko'olani home. Evidently, people were buried next to the old chapel, and the graves remained there undisturbed after it was demolished.

Many members of the Keko'olani family are buried in the Kalōpā LDS graveyard.

Lillian Kalaniahiahi Ka’eo Keko’olani (1888-1923); her son, Charles P. Keko'olani, Jr. (1898-1916); her daughter, Lillian Kalaniki’eki’e Keko'olani Ka’aikaula (1908-1933); also her grandchildren Norman Nawai Keko'olani (1924-1925), and his sisters, little Pearl Pi’ilani Keko'olani (1931-1934), and baby Vivian Shirley Keaolani Keko'olani (1936-1936), these being the children of Nawai and Emily Keko'olani. Also buried at the Old Kalōpā Mormon Church Cemetery are close relatives of the Keko'olani ohana from the Keomalu and Hussey family lines.

Here rests aunty Ellarine Hussey Keomalu (1903-1925), wife of Henry Keomalu Sr. (1875-1974), sister of our tutu Emily Hussey Keko'olani (1907-1953) and mother of Henry Keomalu Jr., George Keomalu, Jeanette Keomalu and Ellarine Keomalu.

Another important person buried here is our great-great-grandmother Aina (1855-1898), daughter of Keomalu (k.) and Kahaumanu (w.). She was known by various names including Oinaku Aina, Aina Keomalu, Inakauina Keomalu, Ainaku and finally Aina Palea Kaai after she married her last husband the fisherman Palea Kaai. Before marrying him, she produced two sons who became the progenitors of the Keko'olani and Keomalu familes. In 1873, she had a son by Paakaula whom she named after her father Keomalu (later he was called "Joseph Keomalu"). In 1875, she had another son by the ali'i high chief Solomon Lehuanui Kalanimaiohueila Peleioholani who he named Keko'olani (later called "Charles Peleioholani" and "Charles Peleioholani Keko'olani"). These two male children are the fathers of the current Keko'olani and Keomalu family lines. All people in these extended families can trace their roots to this female ancestor who is buried in a humble unmarked grave at this cemetery. The remains of her grandson Joseph Keomalu, Jr. were buried here at one time, but were relocated to another site by the Keomalu family.

Restoration and Rededication

After the Keko'olani family moved from Kalōpā to Honolulu in the late 1940's, the cemetery fell into neglect. As the decades passed and the sugar plantations shut down, the wild cane fields spread unchecked and completely reclaimed the land. Visiting family members were eventually unable to identify the location of the gravesite.

The three Keko'olani sisters Amy Keko'olani Akao (1929-2003), Myra Keko'olani Chartrand (1934-2005) and Winifred Keko'olani Silva (1938-2004) returned to the Big Island with their children in the 1970's. With the help of other Keko'olani family members, they were able to locate and clear the cemetery site. Since then, the cemetery has been maintained by the Keko'olani ohana and serves as a place to gather and reflect on our family history.

An official rededication of the cemetery at Kalōpā took place on June 26, 2004. Presiding over the ceremony was Bishop Thomas Heers of the Honokaa Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

50 to 60 Participants gathered at 10:00AM at the cemetery which was decorated magnificently with flowers from friends and family. Talks were given by family members including kin from the Balaido, Keomalu, Tripp and Kamauoha clans. Jade Pumehana Silva conducted the music and provided programs with the help of Ku’ulei Kepa’a. Nephi and Lehi Brown commemorated their mother Amy Akao’s efforts to restore and protect the cemetery with a song she wrote before her death. A representative from the County of Hawaii Mayor’s Office read an official proclamation recognizing June 26th 2004 as The Old Kalōpā Mormon Church Cemetery Rededication Day and commending the Keko'olani ohana’s efforts to protect the historic landmark.

The Kalōpā cemetery has been officially re-named the “Old Kalōpā Mormon Church Cemetery” and has also been placed on Hawaii’s register of historic places. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) donated the marble plaque which marks the entrance to the cemetery, but no longer owns the land on which the cemetery sits. The property is owned by Bishop Estates, which has arranged for protection of the cemetery from ranching activities by concerns leasing the land.

One goal of Kekoolani family is to commission new marble gravestones for all those buried at the cemetery and to erect stone wall around the site. We hope also to landscape the cemetery with a sitting area to provide a park-like setting for visitors. Eventully, A trust fund will be stablished to ensure the care and protection of this cemetery in perpetuity.

More information on the Old Kalōpā Mormon Church Cemetery is available in the book A Place Called Kalōpā, by Amy Keko'olani Akao.