Editor’s note:Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, died Monday. He was 64. In addition to being a tax expert, public finance watchdog and advocate for government transparency, he was also a trained journalist. His writings appeared in numerous media in Hawaii and he was a frequent contributor to Civil Beat’s Community Voices section. Denby Fawcett offers this remembrance of Kalapa, who was a close friend.
Lowell Kalapa was at my house a few days ago for a Christmas lunch of salmon, wild rice, cranberry salad and many bottles of Pinot Noir.
Our usual Christmas tradition involved food and a lot of wine. Lowell and I have celebrated Christmas together for more than 30 years. When we were younger, our celebrations were wilder.
Our main holiday celebration then was on Christmas Eve when Lowell, along with about four dozen other friends, met at my house for a formal sit-down dinner with cases of wine, which we drank until all the Medoc and Champagne ran out.
Lowell made it his tradition to be the last guest. He insisted on washing all the dinner dishes and wine glasses by hand before sitting down with my husband, Bob Jones, and me to drink the last few drops of wine left in the remaining bottles and to talk about the party before it was time for him to go to midnight mass.
Not many know this but Lowell was deeply religious. He was quiet about his formal religion but he lived the Christian expectation of a generous life. He used his scant free time to assist non-profits in setting up programs to help Honolulu’s poor find affordable housing.
Lowell had inherited his parents’ small wooden house in Kapahulu. He knew how important it was for everyone to have a place, even a small place to call his or her own.
Lowell and I met at his cozy house on Makini Street many times to practice a hula duet we danced to Akoni Malacasʻ “Kealoha” at my daughter’s wedding.
I first got to know Lowell when I began covering the state legislature for KITV. Lowellʻs gift to me and many other Hawaii reporters and lawmakers was the knowledge he shared with us about tax policy. I never imagined I could become entranced with the topic of taxes, but thanks to Lowellʻs careful explanations I began to understand and embrace revenue issues.
Lowell initially set out to be a journalist. His studies at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism taught him how to make complicated issues, even boring topics like taxes, interesting.
When Lowell came to our Christmas lunch this year, he handed me a present wrapped in gold paper that was tied with a bright pink bow. He said, “Donʻt worry. It isn’t regifted.” He had read my story on re-gifting in Civil Beat. Re-gifting is when you give to someone else a present that has been given to you. We laughed. But what I didn’t tell Lowell is that each year I re-gifted his Christmas present of chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies as a New Year’s gift to my friend Margaret Yamane.
My goal was to get the cookies out of the house to prevent my husband and I from gaining more holiday weight.
This year I am hanging on to Lowellʻs cookies.
Each night, I will enjoy a single piece of shortbread, savoring the blend of sugar, butter and chocolate, along with a glass of Pinot Noir. And I will think carefully about our lives and how lucky I am to have to have spent some of my best days with Lowell.
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.