Family was his life. When he didn’t pick up, they knew something was wrong

For Hawaiian musician Buddy Jantoc, music was life.
Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 12:53 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 1:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For Hawaiian musician Buddy Jantoc, music was life.

Music and family, that is.

Keshia Alakai said her grandfather would always answer the phone for a family member, even if he was in the middle of playing. That’s why it was so odd when he didn’t answer last Tuesday.

“I started calling him and his phone was going straight to voicemail,” Alakai said.

“So in my head, I was thinking maybe cell service or whatnot ... And that’s not like him, even if I call, texted him in the middle of him playing music, he will text him back.”

A remembrance list: Maui begins to name those who perished in Lahaina

Days later, after the scope of the firestorm that destroyed Lahaina town came into focus, the family’s worst fears were confirmed. The 79-year-old, a resident of the Hale Mahaolu Eono senior housing complex, died when flames tore through the historic waterfront community.

Originally from Oahu, the lifelong musician who even toured with Carlos Santana at one point, moved to Maui to enjoy a slower pace of life.

“He always said Honolulu was too hectic, too much,” Alakai said.

Alakai said one of her final memories of her grandfather was seeing him celebrating his great-granddaughter’s first birthday party on Oahu, just two weeks before the Lahaina blaze.

In addition to music, Jantoc was known for his signature visors and his love of monkeys — an homage to his Chinese Zodiac sign. “Everything surrounded monkeys and his visors, which it’s hard to put any pictures up for him, because he always had a visor on his head,” said Alakai.

Alakai said the family is struggling to come to terms with the loss of someone so good.

“I know he was older and I knew it was inevitable, but knowing he went like that, I can never get over that and just wondering about the pain and suffering,” Alakai said.

During the agonizing week of not hearing anything about her grandfather, Alakai set up a remembrance page on Facebook and was amazed with the response.

“I think that’s the only big thing that really stuck out with him. But he would make friends with anybody like Mr. Aloha, everywhere we were in Maui,” Alakai said.

“We would just talk so highly of him. I have all his friends telling me all over the states that he made friends with just because they’re visiting Maui, and they’ve been lifelong friends there.”