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Kalaupapa National Historical Park Welcomes Generous Donation

September 9, 2013

On September 5th, 2013 Kalaupapa National Historical Park accepted a generous donation from Ron and Elizabeth Akana.  Ron and Elizabeth traveled from O‘ahu hand-carrying two objects – a Sterling silver serving platter and a gold pin with the word “Mother” engraved on it.

Ron Akana’s grandmother was Bessie “Mother” Clinton, a health worker at Kalihi Hospital from 1918 until 1946.  During Bessie’s 27 year tenure with the hospital she cared for and nurtured children sent to Kalihi Hospital with Hansen’s disease.  She personally delivered 31 babies before doctors arrived to work at the hospital.  A few living residents at Kalaupapa Settlement today who were first sent to Kalihi Hospital for treatments still remember “Ma” Clinton for her solid strength of character and kindness.



Image Caption: The gold “Mother” pin was given to Ms. Clinton after 2 years of service at Kalihi.  The engraving signified how patients referred to her as “mother or ma”.  


Image Caption: The silver tray was given to “Mother”, or “Ma”, Clinton after she retired as Hospital Administrator in 1946.  


The Kalihi Hospital and Detention Station on O`ahu opened in 1865 for the admission of Hansen’s disease patients.  Until 1875 it served as a hospital for people with milder cases of the disease and as a temporary detention for people with advanced cases.  Those in more advanced stages of the disease were usually sent to Kalawao and Kalaupapa on Moloka`i.  The Branch Hospital at Kaka`ako on O`ahu opened in 1881 as a “receiving station” for people suspected of having the disease, but closed in July 1888. The Kalihi Hospital reopened in 1889.  In 1949 Kalihi Hospital was replaced by Hale Mohalu, in Pearl City, which emphasized rehabilitation.  Hale Mohalu closed in 1978, and today people receive medical treatment at the Hale Mohalu wing of Leahi Hospital in Honolulu.

These objects have the power to show how the experiences of Hansen’s patients did not just happen at Kalaupapa, but were in fact intertwined with the hospitals and their staff on O‘ahu.  Thanks to the Akana family’s generous donation Kalaupapa National Historical Park is now able to more fully tell the story of Hansen’s disease patients’ experience in the Hawaiian Islands. 


Image Caption:  Ron and Elizabeth Akana hand-carried the silver platter and pin to Kalaupapa.  They donated these items on behalf of the Akana and Char families. 

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