In search of the Next Wave

he ho'omana'o
in memoriam

Robert Healani “Boots” Matthews Sr.

December 7 1936 - March 6 2010

Robert Healani “Boots” Matthews Sr., 73, of Hōnaunau, died March 6 in Honolulu. He will forever be remembered as an avid water sportsman, an impassioned steward of Hawai‘i’s natural environment and a wellspring of cultural knowledge in the Native Hawaiian community. He was an accomplished surfer, surfing instructor, coach and co-founder of the Keōua Canoe Club in Hōnaunau. An avid fisherman and steersman, he led his canoe crew to several championships in the Moloka‘i Hoe. Matthews is said to have inspired many youth to follow in his path of mālama for nature’s gifts, when he served as counselor for at-risk students and later a director at Hale O Ho‘oponopono in Hönaunau. “My husband wanted all Hawai‘i children to enjoy the good things that are free for us all to share in our ocean and our land,” said Clara “Sweet” Matthews, married to Matthews for 53 years.

Matthews upheld his kuleana to care for the ‘āina by becoming a curator and cultural practitioner of Na Kūpuna A Me Na Kako‘o O Hālawa, Hālawa Valley, O‘ahu, where he educated the community in traditional practices of Kanaka Maoli. His efforts at Hālawa have been key to the Hālawa-Luluku Interpretative Development Project coordinated by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. “Uncle Boots and his wife Clara were together in the OHA hallways advocating for and empowering Native Hawaiians through their tireless volunteer efforts to protect and preserve North Hālawa Valley,” said Kaiwinui, HLID Project Coordinator.

Clara Matthews said that her husband urged her to carry on his work at Hālawa. “He told me to never give up on something so important to our kūpuna who came before us. He wanted all of our children to continue the work,” she said. Known by the nickname “Boot” (it started as a singular) as a Waikīkī beachboy in his earlier years, Matthews was beloved for extending his aloha in helping tourists, kama‘āina and keiki to enjoy the waters of the special surf spots at Canoes and Queen’s.

“He was a true hulu kūpuna, who so loved the land, and the land so very much loved him,” said Kai Markell, OHA Compliance Manager. In addition to his wife, Clara, Matthews is survived by his children, Chris Dinson and Ulysses (Cheryl) Matthews, both of Hōnaunau; Lynne (Mike) Suber of Captain Cook; Clarissa (Fred) Medeiros of Kāne‘ohe; George Matthews, Scott Matthews, Robert Matthews Jr., Regan (Rani) Park, all of Honolulu; 25 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. Matthews is pre-deceased by his daughter Roberta. A memorial service for Matthews was held March 28 at Hālawa Valley.