We are a group of community volunteers who have turned out to restore our historic cemetery which had been declining during recent decades. Laura Ruby and Harriet Natsuyama instigated the cemetery data collection, the creation of the cemetery website, and the beautification project.
Laura Ruby is the editor of the acclaimed book, Mo’ili’ili, the Life of a Community, 2005. She remains an active member of Mo’ili’ili as well as the wider Honolulu and Hawaii State communities.
Harriet Natsuyama was born and raised in Mo’ili’ili where her grandfather, Sentaro Otsubo, an Issei from Fukuoka, operated his monument business during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Because a monument-maker and stone-carver like her grandfather never signed his works, she examined the monuments in the cemetery and made a collection of his works.
Laura and Harriet met while the Mo’ili’ili book was in preparation. Laura was also teaching honors courses at the University of Hawai’i Manoa, and Harriet participated in some of them. When Laura taught the Honors 291S course, the students undertook the task of recording the monuments by photographing and writing down the names and dates. This formed the original source of the monument database which has since been updated many times.
Thus you will find the database and the maps which you can use to find the monument of the person you are looking for.
In 2012, Laura and Harriet submitted a proposal for cemetery beautification to the Awesome Foundation of Honolulu, and succeeded in being awarded a grant of $1,000. This was the beginning of the beautification project. Soon, people were contributing checks — even some were newcomers to Mo’ili’ili and had no relatives buried here. The checks were deposited in the bank and used to purchase supplies needed for the renewal, such as more bluestones and wall-building materials. See Beautification Donors and Beautification Volunteers.
It took many months simply to clear away the rubble and trash. After that the wall could be built and plants brought in to create oases of shade and flowers.
After two years, we held our first obon in the cemetery. And each year in July, we observe this event to welcome our ancestors to their final resting place.
Invaluable Individual Resources
Joel Bradshaw--a special thanks
Alice Seo Hirashima
Bishop Eric Matsumoto
June Hirai Matsumoto
Invaluable Community Resources
University of Hawaii Hamilton Library Hawaiian Collection (Joan Hori, Jodie Mattos)
Moiliili Community Center
Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (Nicki Garces)