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Hawaii News

Patients’ tragedy turns into triumph over 30-year span

  • STAR-ADVERTISER FILE
    Patient Bernard Punikai‘a was carried out of Hale Mohalu’s Clinton building by state officials on Sept. 21, 1983, after refusing to leave.

  • Bernard Punikai‘a (left, 1930-2009), known for his bravery 30 years ago when he refused to leave his home at Hale Mohalu, died in February 2009 after suffering stokes over a number of years. He was 78.

    Punikai‘a was born on Oahu and found out he had Hansen’s disease when he was 6 years old. He lived an isolated life in a Kalihi hospital until the age of 11 when he was transported to Kalaupapa on Molokai shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    He left Kalaupapa 11 years later in 1953 and spent the rest of his life on Oahu and Molokai. He is buried at Kalaupapa.

    Clarence Naia(right, 1928-2006), a Hansen’s disease patient who stood his ground when state officials raided Pearl City’s Hale Mohalu treatment center, died in June 2006. He was 77.

    Naia was born to parents with Hansen’s disease at Molokai’s Kalaupapa settlement and taken away to be raised by his grandmother on Maui. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1953 while working as an Army truck driver on Oahu, and moved to Hale Mohalu in the 1960s.

    He returned to Kalaupapa when the treatment center was closed, and later died at Leahi Hospital near Diamond Head. He is also buried at Kalaupapa.

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