Memorial Day ceremony at Natatorium honors past, looks to future

Memorial Day ceremony at Natatorium honors past, looks to future

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the war that is commemorated by the Waikiki Natatorium. And so Sunday's ceremony making Memorial Day was made even more important, according to organizers.

The Friends of the Natatorium have held the ceremony the day before Memorial Day for the last 26 years. It's a colorful ceremony, which includes hula from Hula Halau Olana. Veterans from World War II through the Korean and Vietnam Wars, to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, were honored, and to remember.

"It is fitting that we gather at this War Memorial, the Natatorium, every year to remember our veterans, and all the service men and women who gave their full measure to our nation," said Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, the state Adjutant General.

The Natatorium was originally built not just as a swimming pool, but as a memorial to the soldiers from Hawaii who lost their lives in World War I. The last remaining veteran from that war died two years ago. But Friends of the Natatorium said this is a way to ensure they are never forgotten.

"We appreciate your service," said group president Mo Radke. "And then we say you appreciate your service, you're also saying that to the people who fought for this memorial right here. We appreciate their service as well."

The Natatorium itself has been neglected and closed for decades. But just this past week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed it on its list of National Treasures, perhaps giving it a greater chance for restoration.

"The designation is timed to coincide with the city's environmental review process, where the public will, for the first time in really a generation, have a chance to participate in the preservation process," said Brian Roberts Turner of the National Trust.

"This gives us the opportunity to look into the future and actually start thinking about what it will look like, when the community comes down from the hills, per se, and use the pool and use the beach," said Radke.

While there has been a lot of discussion about what should be done, there are no firm plans or cost estimates. But as the past is commemorated this Memorial Day weekend, supporters believe the Waikiki Natatorium may have a greater chance for a future.

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