AIEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The dining room in Ert's Grill is a small shrine to Aloha Airlines. The placards and posters and aloha print shirts belong to the man in the kitchen - the cook who can barely see.
"I do a lot by smell and by feel," Stephen Ichioka said.
Ichioka was a flight attendant for Aloha for 22 years. He suffers from the progressive eye disease Keratoconus and cataracts. He has to hold his cell phone just inches from his face to see a text message. He can't drive. He can't do a lot of things.
"If I look into the mirror I couldn't see my face," he said. "It's just a blur."
The grill is just getting off the ground. Stephen has no health insurance. But he has lots of friends from the airline that went bankrupt and closed four years ago.
"Even today, we're four years after the fact, it's like we're even closer now," he said.
Without his knowing, the Aloha ohana sent out pleas for financial help. In one week, they raised $23,000 to begin to buy back his sight.
"It's so overwhelming in such a beautiful way," he said.
In July Stephen will have cataract surgery to restore vision in his left eye. He's eager to try archery again.
"I'm hoping," he said.
His right eye will need a corneal transplant. But that costs $100,000. He said someday he might have that surgery. Stephen's co-workers didn't want to be interviewed for this story. But he wanted to single out Tamilyn, Kenya, Sharon and Dorene for reminding him that Aloha is still alive.
"I don't think there's words big enough to say thank you," he said.