For The Love Of The ‘Aina And Island

Isaac Poe with the bougainvillaea he helped bring back

Isaac Poe has singlehandedly cleaned up and landscaped the Opaekaa Falls Lookout and Wailua Heiau

He does it because of his love for the ‘aina and the joy the Garden Isle’s beauty brings to all.

Isaac Poe tirelessly landscapes and keeps Opaekaa Falls lookout and the Wailua Heiau in all their maintained glory so people have the opportunity to admire their natural artistry without the tangled mess of overgrown weeds.

“I do this from the goodness of my heart for all people who walk this earth,” he says.

Since no one else was maintaining the state grounds, which had become shrouded with foliage, Poe grabbed the bougainvillaea by the thorns about five years ago and spruced up the cherished locations.

“Because I live above this area, it hurt my heart to see what wasn’t being taken care of,” he says,

Approximately nine months of diligent effort later, the results were and continue to be breathtaking.

Where bougainvillaea once covered the Opaekaa Falls lookout fence like “octopus legs” completely barren of flowers, it now blooms with brilliant purple and pink blossoms, tucked neatly against the hillside exposing green velvet mountains in the background.

“I needed to do all the work myself, but I made it,” says the father of three – Constance, Celeste and Cheryel. “I almost gave up because you know how frustrating it gets when all the leaves comb the whole park and you don’t have the proper equipment to take care of it?”

While a riding mower is a recent gift, everything else he uses was purchased on his own.

But clipping, trimming, mowing and weed-whacking are second nature to Poe, who worked at Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital for 30 years, most recently as its groundskeeper. This is exactly the type of job he is accustomed to, only this time without a paycheck.

“For me, money is not everything,” says Poe, who has been retired since 1994 yet still puts in anywhere from six to 10 hours on the grounds most days of the week.

He says tough labor is “my thing,” and attributes growing up on an Oahu taro farm to his hardworking ethics.

“This is my life. This doesn’t phase me a bit,” says Poe, who was harvesting taro in the Waianae fields by the age of 5. “That’s how I learned how to work.

“Not too many people today are caring for taro farms because it’s not easy, and the generation today doesn’t want to do it because they feel it’s hard work. They want to do the easy stuff. It’s sad.”

And maybe that is why it would be difficult to find someone with as much drive as Poe has to care for the land.

Even his girlfriend of 26 years, Barbara Wong, thought he was crazy at first for nurturing the five acres of land in Wailua free of charge, he says.

“When I first started, people wanted to give me money,” he says, adding that the area brings him peace and he only wishes to share that with others.

“Every person has their own choice, and this is mine,” says Poe, a graduate of Kapaa High School and a former employee of Coco Palms Resort and Kilauea Sugar Plantation.

After losing his 19-year-old son, Isaac Poe Jr., in a car accident in 1987, his choice to give back to others was clear. His son, “Junior Boy,” and Dr. Fred Snyder of Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital – who lost the entire mobility on one side of his body after suffering a stroke – continue to be inspirations for Poe.

“I said to myself before they passed on, ‘You can’t imagine the pain they went through,'” he says. “For every pain that comes about me, why should I even feel hurt? They had hurt more than the hurt that would come upon me.

“I am not afraid to do anything out here.”

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