Hundreds gather to celebrate life of newlywed lost at sea during fishing trip

Jim Vander Kamp
Jim Vander Kamp
Robert Hobday
Robert Hobday

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

LANIKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of people gathered in Windward Oahu Saturday to remember the good times they shared with a 57-year-old financial analyst and ocean enthusiast from Hawaii Kai who was lost at sea during a fishing trip to the Molokai Channel a week ago.

"We had an enchanted life," Debi Ozawa, victim's wife, said. "It didn't matter what we did because it was always fun."

Among those gathered for Kenan Knieriem's celebration of life were representatives from the Navy, his soccer teammates, and those from the fishing community.

A US Coast Guard helicopter made two passes over the glistening shores of Lanikai in honor of retired Navy Reserves Capt. Kenan Knieriem. On the beach, his family members held hands and listened to story after story about the 57-year-old, whom many described as the coolest guy they knew.

"Kenan loved life. He lived it to the fullest," Jim Vander Kamp, victim's soccer teammate, said. "It is absolutely tragic that his life has come to an end just as he and Debi were starting a life together."

The senior vice president at Merrill Lynch in Honolulu spent his off hours on a soccer field or on his fishing boat, Ikaika. Friends remembered how he always rigged his fishing lines to perfection and sailed with rock-and-roll blaring from the speakers.

"He loved to take people on it so that they can experience and enjoy the kinds of things that he was involved with," Robert Hobday, victim's friend, said. "It's fitting. It's fitting that his end came with the boat because it was such an integral part of his life."

A week ago, while on the boat with his new wife and two friends about 13 miles south of Hawaii Kai, he somehow went overboard. His body was never recovered.

Hobday, his friend of 35 years, was devastated by the news.

"There was a primal scream of pain," Hobday recalled. "I was angry with Kenan at that particular moment. I was older than he is. I expected to have him around for the remainder of my life."

Knieriem's children, Kenan, Jr. and Katie, sat with their mother, as his wife of two weeks, Debi, spoke.

"Our life was like a love story that lasted not long enough for me before he got snatched," Ozawa said through tears. "Farewell, my sweetie. I will see you in Heaven and I will always love you."

A Navy bugler played Taps. Then, as a final farewell, family and friends performed a traditional paddle-out -- forming a circle, joining hands, exchanging words, and splashing water.

"There was never a dull moment," Ozawa said. "We had it all."

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