It all started when Barbara Funamura went to Kauai Veteran’s Cemetery on a Veterans Day to put flowers, and saw that some of the graves did not have any flowers. On Memorial Day the graves were crowded with flowers but not so on Veterans Day.
When she became president of the Kauai United Hongwanji Buddhist Women’s Association over twenty years ago, she made the placing of flowers on every grave a major project for the United BWA.
She was so passionate to have Kauai Veteran’s Cemetery decorated on Veterans Day that she got all five Buddhist Women’s Association Units to adopt this project on an annual basis.
At that time, there were a few Gold Medal Mothers (mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country) still living on Kauai so the marigold flowers became a symbol to honor those mothers. When there were enough marigold flowers to decorate all the graves, the cemetery was really beautiful.
On November 10 all the Units (now down to three) along with church members, affiliates, relatives and friends congregate at Kauai Veteran’s Cemetery to decorate the graves with all types of flowers. (Lihue Hongwanji)
At the beginning, marigolds were placed only on lonesome graves. Now, every year, flowers of all kinds are placed on all graves at Kauai Veterans’ Cemetery.
But this isn’t all that Barbara Funamura started …
Barbara graduated from Colorado State with a degree in food sciences and nutrition and went on to Ames, Iowa for post-graduate study in institutional management.
“Her first job was as an extension agent at the University of Hawaii. She traveled all over, and when she came home, she was an extension agent until the kids came.”
When she started working after raising the kids, she became the first food supervisor for the Meals on Wheels program before joining Big Save as a supervisor for the Kauai Kitchens.
When Grove Farm opened up the Kukui Grove Center mall, she was a good manager and signed up for the spot where Joni-Hana would emerge.
The other thing Barbara Funamura started began at Joni-Hana at the Kukui Grove Center more than 30-years ago.
Barbara Funamura was the originator of the Spam musubi – Spam and rice are combined in a musubi (rice ball) wrapped in nori (sheets of dried seaweed.)
“The first one was triangular” her husband said – to differentiate it from the musuburrito, a similar rice-and-chorizo musubi.
Eventually the Spam musubi was made using a box, morphing it into its now familiar shape. “Barbara saw it and recognized that it was the way to go,” her husband said.
“The sushi would come out all uniform, and it just happens that it fits two slices of Spam side by side.” (Lots of information here is from The Garden Island and Kauai Hongwanji.) (Barbara Funamura died earlier this year.)