War Memorial Rededication

Service members and local community members gather at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu for a war memorial plaque rededication ceremony. The ceremony served to remember, preserve and rededicate the center as a war memorial with the unveiling of a new memorial plaque. The original plaque is believed to have gone missing some time by 1970. On Sept. 12, 1964, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, formerly the Honolulu International Center, was dedicated as a living memorial to all of Hawaii's war veterans and war dead.  Photo and caption: Johans Chavarro
Service members and local community members gather at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu for a war memorial plaque rededication ceremony. The ceremony served to remember, preserve and rededicate the center as a war memorial with the unveiling of a new memorial plaque. The original plaque is believed to have gone missing some time by 1970. On Sept. 12, 1964, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, formerly the Honolulu International Center, was dedicated as a living memorial to all of Hawaii's war veterans and war dead. Photo and caption: Johans Chavarro
On November 10th, 2015 the Blaisdell Center was re-introduced to the public as Honolulu's war memorial auditorium complex in an intimate and moving ceremony. Well written articles by the US Navy and The Hawaii Herald covered the event. Below are more impressions.
Flags unfurled before the memorial dedication. Photo: Ann Kabasawa
Flags unfurled before the memorial dedication. Photo: Ann Kabasawa

Initial plans were to have the ceremony on the concert hall lawn; instead the site was cleansed by rain beforehand, prompting staff to set up seating on the concert hall’s lanai. A fitting touch that we were forced to shelter in one of the venues, part of the original war memorial. The Royal Hawaiian Band, which played before the original 1964 dedication, entertained us as we waited to start.

Maryknoll cadets took part in the original dedication celebration of the then named Honolulu International Center. Here they pass out programs to event goers. Photo: Ann Kabasawa
Maryknoll cadets took part in the original dedication celebration of the then named Honolulu International Center. Here they pass out programs to event goers. Photo: Ann Kabasawa

Veterans from WWII to today, active duty military, city officials, and community members were present. Members of the MIS Veterans Club, Club 100, Daughters of the American Revolution…the diverse group was just large enough to fill the lanai without being crowded.

Grandchildren of Mayor Neal Blaisdell were recognized, one of whom stepped forward to place lei on the late Mayor’s bust in the lobby of the concert hall which now bears his name. Quotes attributed to Mayor Blaisdell during the 1964 dedication were shared.

Admiral Harry Harris spoke about living memorials. Photo: Ann Kabasawa
Admiral Harry Harris spoke about living memorials. Photo: Ann Kabasawa

It was pointed out that “living memorials” such as entertainment venues like Blaisdell Center are not obvious as memorials. Instead, a plaque is required to tell us that, and with the loss of the Blaisdell’s original war memorial plaque, so went that knowledge. Which is why a replacement plaque was being rededicated that evening.

After remarks, the crowd moved outside and gathered around the beautifully landscaped pohaku (stone), the attached plaque unveiled to applause and lit in red, white and blue. As dusk settled, in silence, we began placing ho’okupu (offerings) of maile and ti-leaf lei atop the pohaku.

Former City Councilmember and WWII Veteran Ben Kaito places the first lei atop the stone displaying the new war memorial plaque. Photo: Ann Kabasawa
Former City Councilmember and WWII Veteran Ben Kaito places the first lei atop the stone displaying the new war memorial plaque. Photo: Ann Kabasawa
Saluting the new memorial plaque after placing offering of lei on the stone. Photo: Johans Chavarro
Saluting the new memorial plaque after placing offering of lei on the stone. Photo: Johans Chavarro

WWII veteran Ben Kaito, a Councilmember in 1964, went first. Then active duty service members representing their respective branch of service placed lei one by one – each then standing at attention and saluting the plaque – not a quick snap, but more somber. Echo taps closed out the ceremony. A real chicken skin moment.

Drusilla Tanaka bows before the war memorial plaque. Johans Chavarro
Drusilla Tanaka bows before the war memorial plaque. Johans Chavarro

Our original idea was to fund raise and donate a plaque for installment at the Blaisdell. Instead, the City designed and funded the plaque, display area, and rededication ceremony. Although the plaque is in a different location than the original, which was by the arena, it is lit at night and more beautifully displayed than the original.

It will take time for the Blaisdell’s memorial heritage to become common knowledge. There are more lei on the Elvis statue by the arena on any given day than by the memorial plaque.

Next time you visit Blaisdell Center, leave a lei or some flowers by the memorial plaque. It’s the least you can do.

TH
 

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