Lindbergh grave worth seeing in Hawaii

 
Published5/5/2009 9:24 AM

Q. We're going to Hawaii in the fall. I have always been interested in Charles Lindbergh and I understand he is buried on one of the Hawaiian islands. Do you know which one and how can I find his grave?

A. Charles Lindbergh, the first man to pilot an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean alone, made his final flight to the Hawaiian island of Maui in 1974, only days before his death at the age of 72.

 

The famous aviator is buried on the island where he also had a home. In 1973 Lindbergh was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer by his East Coast doctor and then spent months in and out of hospitals. When he was told he had 10 days to live, he decided he wanted to spend those last days on Maui, which he called "the most beautiful place in the world."

He and his family headed home to Kipahulu, a tiny hamlet near Hana on Maui where he had a simple house located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean as it crashed onto lava rock 300 feet below.

Once there he asked to see his old Hawaiian friend, Tevi Kahalewai, and he asked him to build his grave. Lindbergh gave Kahalewai a scaled drawing with the dimensions he planned for the coffin and grave, detailing where lava rocks should be placed and plumeria trees planted. Kahalewai and 14 native carpenters made Lindbergh's coffin from creosote-treated planks.

They worked for four days. Lindbergh died on the fifth day in the autumn of 1974.

The road to Hana and Kipahulu is carved into a cliff high above the Pacific. Lush tropical greenery prevails along much of the drive. The Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church, where Lindbergh is buried in the adjacent graveyard, is tucked away down a narrow dirt road only a mile or so from what was formerly Lindbergh's home. The church, well over 100 years old, is built in a clearing of coconut palms. It's a typical small country church with white stone walls three feet thick and a belfry.

Lindbergh was buried as he had desired and at the time there were only about 20 graves in the church cemetery. His friend, Kahalewai, supervised the digging of the grave and personally placed the lava-rock border. According to Kahalewai, who was interviewed in 1981, there were only 15 people at the funeral, and seven or eight of those were the choir at the church. Kahalewai said, "Just the family, the doctor, the ranch manager and me."

County officials and residents are protective of Lindbergh's grave because there have been several acts of vandalism. As a result, the sign that directs visitors to the site often disappears. If it's not there you can ask residents, but many times they are evasive. You might check with the Hawaii Visitors Bureau at 2270 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 801, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96816; phone (808) 923-1811, or check the website, gohawaii.com.

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