KAHULUI - With hula, chanting and song, family members and friends paid tribute Sunday to late Native Hawaiian leader and kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
He was remembered as a "warrior" who led many causes including stopping the bombing of Kahoolawe, opposing the exhumation of Native Hawaiian burials at Honokahua and protesting the killing of tiger sharks. As kahu, or minister, he presided over many weddings, blessings, baptisms and other occasions.
But he also was remembered for the family traditions he created, celebrating holidays as well as birthdays with his four children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Wreaths, a portrait of kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. and a photo slide show of highlights of his life frame musician Van-John Paio on Sunday during a celebration of life for the longtime Native Hawaiian cultural expert and community activist in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
"All of you here today knew our dad in different capacities," his son, Charles Kauluwehe Maxwell Jr., said, delivering the eulogy at the funeral service in the Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. "But to us, he was just our dad and had an amazing sense of humor.
"He would tell you not to be sad, celebrate my life today. But tomorrow go out and help perpetuate our Hawaiian culture, love all people and all of their cultures. Stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. Use your manao to help make someone else's life better."
A few hundred people attended the daylong celebration of life for Maxwell Sr., who died March 15 after a long illness. He was 74.
As family members greeted visitors, a photo slide show was projected on the stage, showing Maxwell with dignitaries and government officials, at protests and dedications, in his early years and at family gatherings. Musicians took to the stage to play Hawaiian music, with one telling the crowd, "Uncle Charlie said clap if you want to clap."
Sheldon Brown, who played ukulele and performed a mele for the service, said he and Maxwell would talk once or twice a month, the last time just before Maxwell went into the hospital.
When Brown told his 84-year-old mother that Maxwell had died, "the first thing she said was, 'Oh, no. Who's going to speak for us at weddings?' "
Years ago, when a contractor tried to remove a hill in Waiehu for a telephone pole, Brown called Maxwell. "He said, 'You see an archaeologist there?' I said 'no.' He said, 'That's OK, I'm coming down.' "
Maxwell was already there when Brown and his father, a kupuna of the Waiehu area, arrived. The work was stopped, and today, a monument marks the location, Brown said.
"My dad finally realized sometimes we need a Charlie Maxwell, as controversial as he is," Brown said. "Charlie would often say, 'People don't always like me, but that's all right. We have to do the things that are right, even if it's unpopular.' "
Maxwell's oldest grandson, Dane Kiyoshi Uluwehiokalani Maxwell, led the service Sunday. In August, he was ordained to perform Hawaiian spiritual duties, with his grandfather passing the torch as his health was failing.
"Summing up my grandfather in one word is impossible," Maxwell said. "But if forced to do so, I would choose 'great.' "
He said his grandfather was "not just a fighter but a true warrior," whether he was up against drunken sailors in Lahaina when he was a police officer or leading the charge for the return of Kahoolawe to the state.
Dane Maxwell said his grandfather helped raise him. His mother, SheriAnn Hinano Maxwell, had been her father's caregiver for the past five years.
Born in Napili and raised in Kula, Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. had been a police officer for 15 years before retiring because of an injury in the line of duty, his son said.
"It was at that time in his life he began to change," he said. "With his newfound free time, he began helping Hawaiian people."
Maxwell Jr. remembered going on a hunting trip to Kahoolawe with his father. "He promised we would return and take this island over. It was a long and costly battle where many Hawaiians made a sacrifice, but now the bombing has stopped, the restoration has begun. The rest is now part of Hawaiian history."
He outlined his father's other accomplishments that included serving on the burial council for more than 40 years, writing several Hawaiian songs and chants, helping his late wife, Nina, run a Pukalani hula halau, hosting radio shows, serving as cultural adviser to the Maui Ocean Center and naming King Kekaulike High School as well as some streets on Maui.
In the 1980s, Maxwell Sr. helped lead the opposition to the exhumation of Native Hawaiian burials that led the developer of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, to move the hotel site farther mauka, and remains were returned.
In 1991, Maxwell worked to stop tiger shark eradication that followed shark attacks. He became the Hawaiian cultural representative on the Hawaii Shark Task Force.
Said another grandson, Adrian Kamali'i Maxwell: "You may not have liked him. You may not have agreed with him. No one can disagree with his lasting impact in Hawaii. His living was not in vain.
"We have all been touched in some capacity by his work, by his heart, by his love, by his passion, by his strength."