“All too often, when cowboys ride into the sunset we tend to forget about them,” said Dr. William Bergin, a Waimea veterinarian, author and founding president of the Paniolo Preservation Society.
On Saturday, Jan. 18, the Paniolo Preservation Society will honor six distinguished paniolos with lifetime achievement awards during a dinner and ceremony at the Paniolo Heritage Center at Pukalani Stables.
“This event is unique in that it remembers to identify and honor them,” Bergin said.
This year’s recipients are: William “Willy” Andrade, an independent rancher of Honokaa, Tommy Kaniho of Ka’alualu Ranch in Ka’u, and four Kona paniolo — Gilbert Loando of Hualalai Ranch, Tony Jose of Palani Ranch, Alfred Medeiros of McCandless Ranch and Manuel Medeiros of Ho’omau Ranch.
For North Hawaii, Andrade is an example of quiet, humble strength, according to Bergin.
“Willy Andrade is always helping neighbors – if anyone is in need, he is the first one at their door,” Dr. Bergin said. “He has this wonderful trait of being helpful in a collateral way. He never says an unkind word, and he never raises his voice unless he is laughing.”
One of the founders of the Hawaii Saddle Club in 1953, Andrade also started the Honokaa Arena, the first in the state to have a rodeo. He said they first built the arena out of hog wire.
“When we first started, we used to go to the forest and cut eucalyptus trees and made the bleachers out of the eucalyptus wood,” he said.
Since then, the arena has been used for the entire community for a variety of events and is now going through an upgrade.
For Andrade, ranching has always been a family affair. Of his five children, four live in the area with their families, and almost all of them are involved in ranching and rodeo competition.
“I think rodeo is something that is really good for the youngsters. They are the future cowboys,” Andrade said. Despite a recent fall, he still rides and ropes, and remains active.
Since 1949, Andrade has been in charge of his ranch, which was passed down to him from his mother after ranching from childhood.
“In those days, we would drive cattle along old Mamalahoa Highway,” Andrade said. “There were no trucks or trailers and everything had to be on horseback.”
Though it was hard work, he said he loved it.
“You would travel all on horseback, which I really enjoyed,” he said. “In those days, that was our transportation.”
Not only was he involved ranching and rodeos, he also was a jockey for four years, starting in 1947. He also worked as a firefighter.
Andrade’s faith is also important – having created almost 800 leather crosses in the last five years, he passes them out to cowboys of all ages and faiths to wear on their saddles. In 2001, Andrade was inducted in the Oahu Cattlemen’s Association Paniolo Hall of Fame.
Manuel Medeiros started as a cowboy at Magoon Ranch in South Kohala and was the herdsmen for Jimmy Stewart’s Ho’omau Ranch. Born and raised in South Kona, he has four children, three boys and one daughter who all live on Hawaii Island.
According to Manuel’s wife, Faye Medeiros, he helped with 4-H and he introduced ranching to young cowboys and cowgirls in Kona. She said her husband is interested in passing the skills onto the next generation and he spends time answering questions such as how to shoe a horse, and offers branding tips and help with other necessary techniques he acquired over his lifetime.
“When his children were youngsters, they followed along and learned the cowboy way,” she said of his love for mentoring.
She said that from boyhood, Medeiros’ father used to work with cattle, so he worked on a ranch from a young age. From his experience, he learned teamwork. She said that when other ranchers did branding, he went out and helped them.
“He loved the open range – being out there in the open forest,” Faye Medeiros said.
According to Bergin, Loando’s family is of Puerto Rican descent and landed in Kohala in the late 1800s.
“His father Henry and all of his brothers were involved in ranching in south Kohala starting with the Hind family,” Bergin said.
Dr. Bergin said that Loando had quiet and effective management of cattle – they went exactly where he needed them to go.
“You never heard a murmur from him,” he said of Loando. “Cattle will work better if you don’t harangue them.”
Bergin called Loando “exemplary, loyal, dedicated and a very skilled cattlemen.”
“Gilbert is extremely quiet, but so capable,” said Dr. Bergin. “When you are around working cattle, the gentler you are, the better.”
“Tommy Kaniho was known to be fearless,” Dr. Bergin said.
According to Bergin, the cowboy would gather bulls caught across a stream and drive them back himself.
“He would never turn his back from a challenge,” Bergin said.
Bergin said that Kaniho was “more from Waimea,” but as a little boy, he was raised on Kahuku Ranch and Ka’alualu Ranch in the South Point Area.
According to information from the Oahu Cattlemen’s Association, when several ranches merged forming the Hawaiian Ranch Company, Kaniho worked for the company for 26 years until it was sold to Parker Ranch. He then moved to Molokai where he worked for a of couple years for Del Monte as a heavy equipment operator, and then to Oahu where he worked in artificial breeding for Meadow Gold Dairy.
Tommy retired in 1990 and returned to Ka’u where he started his own ranch on just 25 acres of Hawaiian Home Lands. He and his family run a 400-head cow-calf operation on 1,800 acres at South Point.
Alfred Medeiros, Jr.
Alfred Medeiros “comes from a band of brothers” that were all cowboys, and he rose to the position of foreman at 22 years old. He worked at McCandless Ranch.
“McCandless Ranch in South Kona is known as one of the toughest for cowboys with wild cattle and rough terrain, but good horses,” Bergin said. “Alfred was a great cowboy.”
According to information at the Paniolo Preservation Society from the Oahu Cattlemen’s Association, Medeiros began his 60 years at McCandless Ranch when he was only 15 years old, and spent 48 years as ranch foreman.
One of the biggest accomplishments was the spaying and castration program he conducted, which is largely credited as the key to “finally ridding the McCandless lands of wild cattle,” according to the text.
Tony Jose was a “lifetime Kona boy” that worked for W.H. Greenwell and Frank Greenwell at Palani Ranch.
“Tony is very loyal, dedicated and skilled in animal husbandry and ranch life,” Bergin said. “Tony was unique in that he was left-handed.”
He said Jose was proud of his Portuguese heritage and worked to pass down Portuguese words and culture to the next generation.
“There’s a cultural contribution that Tony and Clem (Andrade) have made that is from pride in their heritage,” Bergin said.
Honoring past achievements – preserving paniolo culture
In 2011, Paniolo Preservation Society realized they needed to recognize the lifetime achievements of the senior stewards of Hawaii’s cattle industry,” who exemplified “the values of ranch life.”
The society said that the men carried out their “unspoken responsibility to pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generation,” for which they are credited for ensuring that the paniolo heritage and traditions continues into perpetuity.”
The first group of distinguished Kepa awardees were: Clem Andrade, Richard Casey DeSilva, Willy Gomes, Kimo Hoopai Sr., Miki Kato and Eugene Olivera. Silver Spur recipients were Donnie DeSilva and Sonny Keakealani. All recipients distinguished themselves for leadership in ranching, rodeo, land stewardship, youth mentorship and multigenerational family values.
Alex Penovaroff, founding member, said that each of the honorees are carefully chosen for their work not only in ranching, but also by their character as well.
“They all persevered in their endeavors and exemplified the finest in what a young man could be when he was growing up,” Penovaroff said.
He said that the men honored had the pride, commitment and perseverance of excellence to serve as mentors for future generations.
“We are today where we came from yesterday—from what was handed to us,” Penovaroff said. “Where we are tomorrow is what we picked up from what we inherited that we will hand down to the next generation.”
He said that was why the men honored, and the men that once mentored them, were valuable to the community and to future generations.
“That is why heroes are so important – we always look up to them,” Penovaroff said. “It wasn’t a love, it was total and undying respect for those mentors. You wanted to be like them.”
The Kepa Lifetime Achievement, Silver Spur Award celebration is a rare opportunity to honor and to hear the stories of these men who were so important to Hawaii Island paniolo history. The evening, which begins at 5:30 p.m., includes a Hawaiian plate dinner, entertainment and awards ceremony. Event tickets are $15 and are available at Kamuela Liquor Store, Parker Ranch Store and Kua’aina Saddlery at Pukalani Stables in Kamuela and at Gramma’s Kitchen in Honokaa. For more information, visit the Paniolo Preservation Society website at paniolopreservation.org, or call 854-1541.