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The Homelani Project

The Homelani Project sprang from the initial Big Island-style Covid-19 lockdown in March and April 2020. After 18 months of intense travel, work and socializing, we were truly staying isolated. Like many in Hilo, we took it seriously. We would walk in the neighborhood and get groceries and take-out and wait for it to go away. So whenever I passed Homelani, the oldest and most interesting of Hilo’s larger cemeteries, I would peruse the elaborate headstones. As an amateur Big Island historian, the names called out to me: Lyman, Nawahi, Lycurgus, Hapai, Beamer, Hitchcock, Serrao, Kennedy, Desha, and more. And then I found my own surname, Terry! Turns out Willard is probably not a close relative, being a Massachusetts rather than North Carolina Terry, but I suddenly knew I had to know more, about him, and everyone. I spent many hours poring through old books and especially newspapers ( is a blessing). Their histories emerged, albeit through a glass darkly, as the English language papers were run by white men sympathetic to the planters, annexationists and racial purity types. After all, who bought the daily papers? But that made the detective work even more interesting, as one had to triangulate the racism and hidden motives in each story. In this section of my website, I offer up what may best be called biographical tales. With the surrealistic lockdown over, and socially distanced work back in full swing, I am stuck at just three…..but I hope to add stories as I have time. If you have an ancestor here, please forgive me if I err or speculate in an uncomfortable way or offend with my own inevitable biases. Such is the risk of any history. I would be interested in any comments that readers may have.

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