When her friend’s daughter decided on a last-minute wedding, Pat Stubbins knew just whom to call.
“When is the wedding?” asked James Kaikainahaole.
“Today,” said Stubbins, who worked with him in the advertising department at the Tampa Bay Times.
“Well,” said Mr. Kaikainahaole without pause, “let’s get started.”
That day, he bought vases at the Dollar Store, sent Stubbins and her husband out to pick magnolias, scraped together a tent, music and food. Then, he partied with the rest of the guests.
Mr. Kaikainahaole, always dressed sharply in a hat and sunglasses, was known for the parties he threw, even if they weren’t his own.
He died March 26 at 69. His cause of death is unknown, but family and friends suspect it was due to complications from asthma.
Friends called him Kimo, and nearly everyone he met became a friend.
Mr. Kaikainahaole left Hawaii at 12 and always planned to move back someday.
He finished high school in Lawton, Oklahoma, where his dad served with the Army. After college, he moved to St. Petersburg with a friend in 1989 to work for a computer store. When that store went under, he started working at the Times as a proofreader in advertising production.
He threw themed parties with the food, drinks, decorations and music all in tune with each other.
“Kimo wasn’t just at a party,” said best friend and roommate Jeffry Pearl. “Kimo was the party.”
And his couch was always open for anyone who needed it.
After 17 years, Mr. Kaikainahaole retired from the Times. When he heard Paradise Grille on Pass-a-Grille Beach was looking for someone to run the gift shop, he took on a new job. There, he built more circles of friends.
“He sort of met everybody at their level,” said Rebecca Horowitz, a longtime friend. “He wrapped himself around them and made everyone feel special.”
Horowitz introduced Mr. Kaikainahaole to Judaism, and he embraced her traditions. Passover, with the fine china and silver, was his favorite, Horowitz said.
“He would always say that we are Mishpacha, which is family.”
Twice a year, sometimes more, Mr. Kaikainahaole went to Oklahoma to see his father. His cousin, Johnette Chun, often joined him and watched as people gravitated to her uncle’s house to see her cousin.
He pulled people from all different groups together.
Mr. Kaikainahaole went back to Hawaii in 2013 with his father and reconnected with family there. His dad, the only living sibling of 14, was treated like a prince, Chun said. Mr. Kaikainahaole sat back and smiled as everyone doted on his father.
In early January, a few days before his dad’s memorial service, a few days after the riots at the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Kaikainahaole told his cousin that he just wanted to live a kind life.
At his own memorial service this month on Pass-a-Grille Beach, she said, that word came up a lot.
After the service, as friends and family packed up a table with photos of him, a young woman and her son approached. She’d known him, too, from years of beach days there.
The woman never knew Mr. Kaikainahaole’s name, she told them, but he always made them feel special.
“In Hawaii we called him Mr. Aloha,” Chun said, “like an ambassador for aloha spirit.”
And this summer, when his family brings his ashes to their tomb at Oahu’s Kawaiaha’o Church, they’ll return Mr. Kaikainahaole to the place he loved, carried with him and shared everywhere he went.
Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.
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