Family members heartbroken by desecration of grave markers at Kawaiahao cemetery

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HONOLULU-(KHON2) Community members visited Kawaiahao Cemetery Thursday, just 24-hours after the vandalism of 27 grave markers were discovered. Some draping lei on the desecrated headstones. others came simply to pay their respects.

Napualani Lealai-Matafao and her mother went down hoping to help repair the damage. They were enraged by what had happened.

“This should be sacred. Kept safe. But they came over here and destroyed everything. It’s sad. It’s sad,” Lealai-Matafao said.

Wilfred Lopes heard the news from his niece. Sitting next to his great grandparents’ damaged grave, he was heartbroken.

“These people are resting, leave them alone. They didn’t hurt nobody. I don’t know how come this happened. I really don’t know. How can people pick on the dead?” Lopes asked.

Church officials believe the graves were damaged early wednesday.

Several of the headstones were put back on their base this morning, but most aren’t as easy to fix.

Of the 27 headstones that were vandalized a marble headstone belonging to Hoopii Malaea, is probably going to be the most difficult to repair according to Nanette Napoleon, a historical researcher for Kawaiahao Church. Because the headstone was broken in several different places when it was pushedover it will take extra work to fix.

Napoleon said it could cost more than $10,000 repair all of the damage.

Brickwood Galuteria, chairman of the church’s board of trustees, said that they will pay to restore the headstones and they are looking at improving security.

Galuteria added that they will let the community know how they plan to restore the headstones once they make that decision.

Because there were so many graves damaged Napoleon said it was likely done by several people.

“It’s possible that one person could do this, I’ve seen it before, but because of the numbers, it’s probable that it was at least two people,” Napoleon explained.

Napoleon doesn’t think the vandalism was racially motivated.

“I don’t think so. The incidents have been happening so frequently in other Japanese cemeteries, every kind cemetery, so I don’t think that it was racially-based.”

Most of those buried at Kawaiahao are native Hawaiians.

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