The Lost and Found Collection / A Celebration of Life.
by Doug Walker·
I was at the house house when my phone rang, it was Button’s son Mario calling. I had just arrived on the North Shore a few days prior and was preparing for the celebration of the newly released Ohana book for the Benson Family. I picked up the phone and Mario said “Hey Uncle Doug, “My family is celebrating the 9th year of the loss of my dad and I would like you to come and celebrate at Pua’ena Point”. I was honored and accepted this invitation and asked if I could also be bring my 80 year old father and my friend who just arrived from the mainland. Of course, as all Hawaiians do he said no problem. We hopped in the car at Sunset Beach and headed into Haleiwa. It was a beautiful day as the sun was slowly falling to the horizon. We pulled up to the parking lot and there was Mario approaching and he greeted me with a huge hug. I truly felt welcomed.
I met Buttons in 2008 when I first started coming to the North Shore, after the discovery of negatives at the Rose Bowl. I still remember the day I pulled up to his home in Backyards, he was one of the kindest people I had ever met. We spent about 5 hours that afternoon and continued chatting into the evening. We later had a wonderful dinner made by his wife lovely wife Hiriata as their young son slept on the couch. I would try to visit Buttons every year and marvel at all of his stories of life, family, and of course the surfing. But it was always the life that intrigued me as this amazing Hawaiian would just open up and share so much.
But that would come to an end when the world lost Buttons on Nov 2, 2013.
When Button’s passed I reached out to his son Mario and we would become great friends. He was attending school up in Humboldt, California and was running track. I would attend various track meets to be there for support as he had no family in California. The years passed and I watched him become a man in his college years and upon graduation, he returned to Hawaii.
We got out of the car at Pua’ena Point and walked the path. The sun was still dropping to the horizon. As we approached the water’s edge I could see a gathering of people in silhouette and as we got closer I could see that it was the Kalahiokalini Ohana. I had been invited as an outsider to share this special day with them, something I will never forget. We greeted with hugs and aloha and all sat on the beach with food and stories and memories. I had never met all his kids as well as other relatives. I sat in a chair next to his brother Noble, who I had exchanged messages with over the years via social media. However, that did not compare to real human contact as together remembering sharing something very powerful and special.
I watched my father and friend sitting of to the side taking all this in as they were also greeted with Aloha. Mario headed out for a quick paddle and upon his return we all ate the most amazing fish, vegetables, and meats that they had made. The fish was lathered in mayonnaise and had a taste like no other.
As more family members continued to arrive, we walked the path to the waters edge where a palm tree had been made into a memorial covered with leis, flowers, memories and love. Also perched on the tree was the classic photo by photographer Jeff Devine of Buttons in the water with that great smile. We all then formed a large circle and held hands while one of the daughters gave a prayer and song in the native tongue. We then reached into a bag of fresh flowers and entered the waters edge as more prayers were shared. There was a release and explosion of flowers floating into the air and each petal descended into the water. There were screams of love as each and every face stared into the water and to the horizon as the flowers were carried out to sea.
I was allowed to let my camera capture some of these moments yet I didn’t know what I had captured until downloading. What these images show is so much love and you feel how much the family misses Buttons. I saw it in each face and will never forget this special invitation and memory of his life.
The sun set and we said goodbye with Aloha. The story continues…..