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Nonprofit to take over repairs and maintenance of dilapidated Pearl City cemetery

Nonprofit to take over repairs and maintenance of dilapidated Pearl City cemetery
Updated: Jun. 3, 2017 at 4:59 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dozens of community members packed Waiau District Park on Saturday to express concerns over longtime problems at a Pearl City cemetery.

Overgrown grass and weeds, no running water and homeless have plagued Sunset Memorial Park, breaking the hearts of families with loved ones buried there.

"Am I pissed off with Sunset Memorial mortuary guys? Oh yeah, because they left us all in the dark," said one woman who attended the meeting.

The Pearl City Neighborhood Board hosted the special meeting.

State and city officials were questioned about the cemetery's ownership and why community members can't take matters into their own hands.

A bill that sought to protect volunteers from liability for maintaining the cemetery died this legislative session.

"You want to go onto someone else's property without permission then you're putting yourself at risk," said Sen. Breene Harimoto, whose district includes Pearl City.

Catherine Awakuni, the director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, said the state is in the process of a title search.

"The underlying ownership of the property is not clear," she told the crowd.

Some argued that family with a stake at the cemetery should be the rightful owners.

"Everybody in this room owns a piece of that cemetery," said one man. "It's ours so there is no question of who owns it, we own the cemetery."

In the meantime, Darrell Salvador is working to establish a nonprofit called Friends of Sunset Memorial Park.

Five generations of his family are buried there.

He said he's working with the cemetery manager to build a fence around the property, repave the road, fix water pipes and demolish an old, damaged structure.

"Our job is to just clean and maintain the cemetery, not take ownership," said Salvador. "It's a process, but it's not impossible."

With a show of hands, majority agreed that starting the nonprofit is a step in the right direction.

Salvador said he plans on holding a blessing ceremony next month at the cemetery before beginning repair work.

The cemetery manager was not present at Saturday's meeting.

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