Theodore “Teddy” Kawahinehelelani Blake

Earlier this summer, we said goodbye to Uncle “Teddy” Kawahinehelelani Blake, a steadfast community leader, advocate for cultural preservation, limu practitioner, and beloved kupuna within our network ʻohana, who passed away at his family home in Koloa, Kauaʻi on July 18, 2021.  

The first one to show up to a meeting–with friends in tow–and the first one to fall asleep during that same meeting, Uncle Teddy was definitely an unforgettable character, whatever impression he left.

Anakala Teddy, we’ll miss your daily check-in calls sprinkled with jokes and positive affirmations, your penchant for hyperbole, your words of wisdom, and the wise-ass ones as well. In spirit with your kolohe smiles and the sassy puakenikeni that almost always adorned your ear, here is a story retold by Wally Ito that illustrates how your rascal sense of humor got us through harsh seasons of shifting sands and how we’ll carry your stories with us in many more seasons to come.

“Teddy Blake and Nutgrass” by Wally Ito

Ted told me this story several times about how he outwit his dad when he was punished for bad behavior.

Small kid time, whenever he would get into trouble, Ted’s dad would punish him by making him go outside to pull weeds. But not anykine weeds. His punishment was to go out into their yard and pull out 1,000 nutgrasses with the nut still attached. He had to do this before he was allowed to come back into the house. 

If you have any kind of experience pulling nutgrass, you understand how difficult it is to pull that many nutgrasses with the nut still attached. Nutgrass sends out thin, easily breakable runners. If you are not careful when pulling out this weed, you will end up with the blades but not the “nut.” It takes a lot of digging and a lot of effort to pull out the blade with the nut still attached. Pulling out 1,000 is harsh punishment.  

The young Teddy Blake figured out a way to evade harsh punishment by growing his own nutgrass in a plot of sand. Pulling 1,000 nutgrasses from a bed of sand was easy. He could quickly pull out the required amount of nutgrass and have plenty of time to play. Instead of changing bad behavior to avoid punishment, he chose to continue his rascal ways by concocting a plan to get around harsh punishment. 

I often work in my garden and one of the burdens of gardening is pulling out nutgrasses with the nut still attached. Every time I do this I think of Teddy Blake. The way nutgrasses keep popping up in my garden, I will be thinking of Teddy Blake for the rest of my gardening life.

“Don’t change bad behavior. Continue the bad behavior, just find a way around the punishment.” – Teddy Blake


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