KALAUPAPA, Hawaii (KHON2) — Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa was one of the more than 8,000 people diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease since 1866 in Kalaupapa, the most isolated peninsula in the Hawaiian Islands.
He joined his brother, two sisters and uncle in 1959 as patients diagnosed with the disease that was then called leprosy.
He and his siblings would play boogeyman games with military-issued gas masks, hence the nickname Boogie.
Boogie found the settlement as less of a prison and more of a playground with its untouched cliffs and shoreline. Non-contagious residents were allowed to leave Molokai with the advent of disease-inhibiting sulfur drugs, but Boogie and his wife Ivy would often return to their Kalaupapa home.
Boogie was active in the Lions Club as a community leader and presided over Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa. He traveled to Vatican City twice as part of the patient delegation to the canonizations of Father Damien and Mother Maryann.
A project dear to his heart was the construction of a Kalaupapa memorial — a project that was stalled in the Legislature because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The memorial is to list the names of the more than 8,000 who lived and died there, his name now among them.
Boogie Kahilihiwa would have celebrated his 80th birthday in April, 2021.