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Newsboy’s ebullient face became symbol of statehood

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  • GEORGE F. LEE / MARCH 2009
    Chester Kahapea was 13 when Hawaii became a state and he was made famous in a photo by Albert Yama­uchi as the paperboy bearing the newspaper with the headline “Statehood."

The grinning newsboy whose iconic photograph marked Hawaii’s statehood in 1959 has died.

Chester Frank Kahapea died March 4 at Kua­kini Medical Center from complications brought on by Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 65.

Kahapea was selling Hono­lulu Star-Bulletin newspapers announcing statehood on Hono­lulu’s streets of on March 12, 1959, and quite happy with the sales.

"I couldn’t cut the bundles open fast enough," he recalled in an interview.

The newspaper carried a photograph of him grinning and holding the newspaper headlined "Statehood" — a photograph used in many newspapers, including The New York Times.

His son Christopher remembers Kaha­pea as a father who passed on his work ethic to his children, and helped them to deliver newspapers.

He said his father also started a Cub Scout troop at Nuuanu Elementary School and kept his children busy in activities, including participation in Fourth of July and Memorial Day parades.

Christopher Kahapea credited his father for inspiring his pursuit of coaching baseball. "I guess he kind of rubbed off on me," he said.

Chester Kahapea, a Wai­anae resident, worked for 31 years for Construction Engineering Labs Inc., testing the quality of concrete, asphalt and soils.

In 2008 he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But Christopher Kahapea said his father continued to dance as much as he could while he was still able, both in Hawaii and aboard cruise ships.

When he had to use a wheelchair, he still managed to attend his grandchildren’s baseball games, scheduling specially equipped vans to bring him to the ball field.

"He didn’t let Lou Gehrig’s disease run his life," Christopher Kahapea said.

Chester Kahapea is also survived by son Jeffrey; daughter Nadine; brothers Kanui, Kalei, Keola and Ronnie; sister Lurline; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation is from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m Saturday at Nuuanu Memo­rial Park and Mortuary. Serv­ice begins at 11 a.m. Cas­ual attire is requested. No flowers.


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