Fallen warriors honored at Natatorium

Fallen warriors honored at Natatorium
Keiki from Hula Halau Olana perform at a Memorial Day ceremony at the Waikiki Natatorium.
Keiki from Hula Halau Olana perform at a Memorial Day ceremony at the Waikiki Natatorium.

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I were among those who were commemorated in a Memorial Day weekend ceremony Sunday at the Waikiki Natatorium. But people attending the 25th annual event also noted the uncertain future of the Natatorium itself.

The event was personal for a group of family members who were stringing flowers for lei during the service. They are the descendants of some of the men whose names appear on a plaque on a rock fronting the Natatorium.

One name is of special significance, that of Pvt. John Rowe, who died in the first World War at the age of 26.

"My grand uncle, my grandmother's brother, was Hawaii's first fallen warrior from a foreign war in Hawaii, so that's the initial bond to this memorial," said Kenrock Higa, himself a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

The ceremony was held by The Friends of the Natatorium, which chose the theme "Engaging the Past with the Present, With Concern for the Future" -- an obvious reference to the Natatorium itself, which was built as a World War I memorial. It now has an uncertain future, after Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced their plans to demolish the aging saltwater swimming pool.

While family members paid their respects by leaving the lei near the plaque, the decision to demolish didn't sit well with at least one of them.

"Just a rock with a plaque on it in an open park is totally disrespectful," said Higa.

For now, it -- and the Natatorium -- still serve as a backdrop for the day's original reason.

"Memorial Day's initial intent continues to be drifting away, and people need to be reminded that fallen warriors should be remembered as well."

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.