Illness forces koa wood craftsman to close business

Illness forces koa wood craftsman to close business

KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Long before the wood workers at RKF Enterprises cut into a piece of koa wood, the company's owner has already envisioned the end product

"When I look at wood I just always have ideas about what I'm going to do with it," Rowland Fujii said.

For 35 years Fujii's ideas became mini masterpieces. His koa wood creations have been presented to presidents and given as gifts to every day people.

"I used to tell them I'm like Jack in the Box. We don't make it 'til you order it because it's a customized special gift," he said. "But I can't do it in five minutes."

The minutes are running out.  On January 11, RKF will go out of business. Last year Fujii was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He can no longer use his arms.

"My wife has to help me change clothes. But every day you start with an attitude of gratitude," he said.

ALS disconnects the mind from muscle control. Doctors say it leads to paralysis and death. Fujii, 67, hopes to break that mold.

"I hyphenate the word disease - dis-ease. The disease cannot exist in a body that's in a healthy emotional state. So, I don't even think about it," he said.

The company is putting the touches on its last few koa pieces. The remaining wood is being sold as scrap. This weekend RKF holds a closing out sale. Fujii said one thing can save it from being a final farewell.

"To get someone to buy the business, and I'll be the consultant and show them what my ideas are and how to make what we've done in the past," he said.

Over three decades, Fujii estimates his company has turned out 7,000 koa wood items.

"To buy a special gift just say it with koa. Say aloha. Say thank you," he said.

Now people are coming out of the woodwork to say thank you to him.

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