Natatorium hosts Memorial Day services

The young ladies of Hula Halau Olana provided entertainment for the guests at the War Memorial in Waikiki – otherwise known as the Natatorium – as they waited to hear tributes paid to veterans.

One speaker, Gene Castagnetti, said memorials such as these honoring those who fought in World War I are vital to prevent what he called “cultural amnesia.”

The former director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific acknowledged that it will take financial help to guarantee the future of the Natatorium. “But I look at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and recognize that it was not funded by legislators or public officials. It was a foundation.

“So I’m saying, let’s connect the dots, find a foundation and the corporations that are willing to preserve this memorial,” Castagnetti said.

The future of the Natatorium has been in limbo for years. One faction wants to preserve a part of the memorial and open the beach, while another would like to rebuild the Waikiki War Memorial to its original state.

“I fear that what will happen, while we’re fighting amongst ourselves, it’s going to crumble,” said Peter Apo of Friends of the Natatorium. “And then it will be a matter of public safety to take it down.

“I think because the Natatorium has been down for so long, there’s been a loss of emotional memory about what the place was and what it can be again.”

Apo went on to say that “there are only two remaining what I would call treasures. One is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and this is the other. If either one of those goes, we (lose) a part of our soul.”

The morning ceremony at the War Memorial ended with a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”

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