Kaua‘i Community College faculty and staff joined hands to clean the Puhi Plantation Camp Cemetery on KCC grounds earlier this week, as part of the University of Hawai‘i Community College System’s 50th Anniversary.
About 50 faculty, staff and community volunteers cleared debris and trash, dug away weeds, cleaned grave markers and placed fresh flowers at the gravesites.
“We thought it would be most fitting to celebrate by honoring those who lived here and the roots of the land on which Kaua‘i CC stands,” KCC Chancelor Helen Cox said. “Giving back through community service is a hallmark of our mission. This project symbolizes what we stand for and will continue forward. Here’s to the next 50.”
In the Puhi Camp Cemetery, 97 names are listed on the gravestones, 20 are marked in Japanese, and 52 are unknown.
KCC officials said Puhi Camp was ethnically diverse, with workers from China, Philippines, Japan, Puerto Rico and Portucal. At one time, there were 600 homes with 1,200 residents. Sugar cane, pineapple and other crops were cultivated until 1968.
The camp is remembered for being a place where people were happy, productive and appreciative of the richness of a simple way of life. It had its own gas station, slaughterhouse, Chinese laundry, three stores, and places where children could play freely.
A former swimming spot known as “Up Pond” still exists as a reservoir that feeds into KCC’s lo‘i.
KCC sits on 200 acres of land dedicated by Grove Farm Company in 1972. Its first provost, Edward T. White, was charged with developing an educational plan for a new Puhi campus. Groundbreaking was held in 1973. In 1976, the campus’ doors opened.
KCC, originally named Kalaheo Vocational School, was at Kalaheo School where classes began in 1926 for machinists. In 1952, the school moved to Lihu‘e with a new name, Kaua‘i Vocational School.
Since its inception, KCC has been an educational hub. In its early years, to meet demands from business and industry, carpentry, automotive mechanics, welding, business education (accounting and secretarial science) and architectural drafting programs were added.
Today, KCC offers a wide range of degree-seeking programs of study in liberal arts and science as well as non-credit courses for required certification, professional development and personal fulfillment.