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Incidental Lives

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By chance, were you at Ala Moana Center on Christmas Eve 2009? If so, I wonder: Did you see my mother? She would have been bent over a walker, scraping along in her white Velcro-top sneakers a few feet at a time.

When Maria Victoria "Nena" Li Won was told that she had been selected as one of six outstanding Sacred Hearts Academy alumni to be honored at the school's annual scholarship gala, she was truly mystified.

When Gloria Valera opens her mouth, it's a good bet the first words to roll off her tongue will be, "I have a story ..." What follows is always worth listening to.

Is there a subtle way to say that you studied classical piano at age 3 and spent your teen years giving solo performances at Westminster Cathedral or St. George's Chapel Windsor Castle (for Queen Elizabeth!) — y'know, without inviting a hellacious two-fisted melvin?

He said he was surprised and humbled to have a fan club in Hawaii.

Soiled Pampers don't just fly out of passing cars by themselves. Ditto the beer bottles that turn into heel-slicing shards once they hit the shoulder of the road.

Henry Okahara, a lifelong fisherman and collector of great fishing stories, thought he might have yet another contribution to the annals of The Ones That Got Away.

You assign real names only to things you intend to keep. So, for now at least, the puppy’s unofficial name is Puppy.

The saying goes that all lost things are in the angels’ keeping. Still, Sandra Laney didn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing her ID and credit cards again after her wallet was stolen June 1 at Koko Marina.

Some things a person just knows. Like when Jo desMarets was in the third grade in Columbus, Ohio, working on a Hawaii statehood project and she just knew that sooner or later she was going to live in Hawaii.

Busy as he is these days, Curtis McClean always makes time to walk the streets around his Iwilei office, ambling along the sidewalks outside the Institute for Human Services next door, where folks gather early to secure a spot in the dinner line, and across Aala Park, where homeless people sleep beneath park benches and addicts and dealers circle nervously about the bathrooms.

He made it. For all of the prayers offered on his behalf, for all of the white-knuckle negotiations with higher powers, for all of the stubborn faith friends and family had invested in him, was there anyone at last week’s Kamehameha Schools graduation ceremony who witnessed senior Keaton Wong take the stage to receive his diploma and didn’t feel a warm swell of amazement?

Oh, to be 18 again. Wait, scratch that. Oh, to be 18 the way soon-to-be St. Andrew's Priory alumna Sarah Tamashiro embodies the age — intelligent, energetic, idealistic, in possession of an abundance of gifts both inherited and developed.

In Manoa Valley there are three things of which one can be reasonably certain.

It started as a tiny wet spot above the shower. At least that's what "Harry" thinks he remembers.

When 19-year-old newlywed Thuy Zipp arrived in Hawaii from war-torn Vietnam in 1969, she could sense right away that her new home was the sort of friendly, welcoming place she could learn to love.

After carefully elaborating on his point that our modern dependence on fossil fuels is essentially a drain on a limited bank of ancient sunlight, and having already deftly woven an improbably logical cloth from theories posited by both mythologist Joseph Campbell and Jedi master Yoda, AND having earlier confessed to making homemade chain-mail jackets in high school, 36-year-old Manoa resident Jon Abbott suddenly feels compelled to let us in on the worst-kept secret of the young evening.

There's the Wai­alua that we think we know, the one where a rollicking Friday night starts with a round of headlight hide-and-seek and ends with beers on the hood watching the townies spin cluelessly around the Hale­iwa-Wai­alua rotary, the Wai­alua where ATMs number about as many as traffic lights and both can be counted on one hand.

There is no happy circumstance by which a child is placed in foster care.

It was a simple enough errand. All Noelani Sadowski wanted to do was return a video to the neighborhood grocery store. But on the way back, somewhere along that oh-so-familiar quarter-mile stretch leading to her Kane­ohe home, everything went black.

From the God's-honest to the apocryphal, every artist has a coming-of-age story.

There's much that Kame­ha­meha senior Keaton Wong would love to do if he still could.

There are days when Honolulu Waldorf senior Arsalan Danish feels every one of the 7,000 miles that separates him from his family.

Pediatrician Dr. Amy Lumeng was all set to become a mother, just not right at that moment.

Word to the wise: Mom always knows best, even when she's 6,500 miles away. Nui Hicken's mother, Pang Khongpang, certainly knew what she was talking about when she advised her daughter that opening a Thai food restaurant would be a great way to carve a niche in her adopted home of Hawaii.

It takes a rare kind of confidence to ask out a young lady whose previous interactions with you focused on, oh, an area of your body not known for getting a lot of sunshine.

Mason Yasso, when you grow up, your parents have a heck of a story to tell you.

In his 20-plus years at the Safeway supermarket in Manoa, graveyard shift clerk Jerry Lakins has seen all species of nocturnal shopper, from tittering college freshmen proffering shoddy fake IDs to bleary-eyed cabbies with hanging shirt tails seeking after-work smokes, to slow-stepping loners who roam his well-waxed aisles looking for nothing in particular.

You might not know Patrick Gartside personally, but surely you know someone like him. When you're moving house, he's the guy walking backward downstairs holding the other end of your dresser.

You'll forgive Josh Moore if he looks around his Kapiolani Community College classrooms today and feels a lifetime older than his Droid-tapping, Monster-slurping, Facebook-checking peers.

It's midafternoon on a breezy, overcast Sunday, and, hospital regulations to the devil, Henry is going for a walk.

"Uncle" wants to keep this on the down low, so no real names, OK? Seems what Uncle does for extra income could be misinterpreted by certain people. Like, say, the folks who cut his disability checks.

Lehua Kealoha sits back in her beach chair in the far corner of the bathroom, the bun of her hair nestling against the white-tile corner, her arms restless beneath the blue hoodie she's spread over herself like a blanket.

There's a word -- several, actually -- for people who seem to have it all. We just don't use that language in family newspapers.

As an adolescent growing up in San Nicolas in the Ilocos Norte region of the Philippines, Merlita Compton spent many hours at the side of her grandmother, the town's lone midwife.

Yes, Nancy Pace has spearheaded medical missions to Ethiopia to help those widowed and orphaned by AIDS. No, she and the Dalai Lama are not BFFs.

When Steven Akana's sister Charlene Acopan lay dying in the intensive care unit at the Queen's Medical Center three years ago, Akana comforted her in the only way that felt real.

Weddings are crazy. So crazy, in fact, that it's not uncommon for otherwise doggedly observant brides and grooms to later recall not a thing about such trivial concerns as what flowers were in the bridal bouquet, or what the invitations looked like, or what kind of frosting was on that wedding cake.

British Dawson can deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- although, seriously, how is it fair that an 11-year-old kid has to live with something as monumentally lame as diabetes?

In work as in life, Lynn Weiler Liverton is an artist in the medium of ah-hah.

Gerald Minami won the Honolulu Police Department's reserve officer of the year award in, well, he can't recall. Sometime in the '90s. Hey, it was a busy decade. Who keeps track?

There were many in those early days of the restoration who arrived on Kahoolawe, surveyed the spent munitions blown across barren fields and felt the injury to the island as an injury to their own spirit.

For a guy with a strong Catholic upbringing and the universal admiration of his parish brethren, Andy Llamedo has a strange knack for making nuns cry.

Each night, Aaron Okubo would watch the news from his hospital bed, his mind churning with crosscurrents of hope and dread. Just 52 at the time, he was weeks, perhaps days, away from bidding final farewell to his wife and two sons. His liver and kidneys had started to fail.

When Maydell Morgan began working as a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, the country was reeling from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; Richard Nixon and Eugene McCarthy were embroiled in a pitched battle for the presidency; and Hawaii was in the midst of a dramatic surge in population, commercial development and tourism.

Hark, good sirs and mistresses. Prithee tell where a godly Renaissance man might go to find a Renaissance fair -- er, faire -- in Hawaii?

Darlene Wong remembers it all -- the good and bad times, days of courage and moments of weakness, the final words, the final breaths.

When Sarah Elizabeth Gall returns to St. Andrew's Priory this morning for the start of her senior year, she'll have one whale of a what-I-did-this-summer story.

We have it on higher authority that should the University of Hawaii football team play to its potential, take its share of 50-50 games and avoid injury, it has a great shot to play in a bowl game this year.

He was trying to give the kid a break. Three times in a row he'd burned the younger, faster, bouncier defender with a simple drop-step move he'd perfected before the kid was even a kick in the womb. Notice, he said, I always go right with that one. Bum shoulder and all. So, here's what you do.

With every pedal of her two-wheeled war horse, every swallow of decadently smooth, locally grown avocado, every faded T-shirt hung in the warm, Waiohinu breeze, 61-year-old Eva Uran enacts the same simple but urgent message.

Waiakea High School graduate Nolan Kamitaki doesn't like to brag (perfect 2,400 on his SATs), and while his parents are certainly proud of what he's accomplished, they too are more apt to mind their manners than shout from the rooftops.

On a too warm Sunday afternoon at the Kapaa Transfer Station, better known as the Kailua Dump, a father and teenage daughter take turns pitching weathered lumber and moisture-warped drywall from the back of an oversize pickup truck.

Lavina Aina was born and raised in Waimanalo. It's all she knows and all she's ever cared to know.

The kid is a klutz. Leave Kekauleleanae'ole Kawai'ae'a standing with a plate of food and it's only a matter of time before it ends up on his Nikes.

Aiea High School math teacher Shaneka Norman has a head for numbers, an eye for the color pink and a very large soft spot for 1,000-cc engines.

Philip Baham's memories of the good old days in Hawaii might be more hell-raiser than halcyon, but the scooter-bound, f-bomb-dropping ex-sailor treasures them just the same.

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