A Bittersweet Day At Heeia Kea

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - October 08, 2008
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Sharon Pisciotto, Carolyn Mau, Alan Mau and Vera Choy
From left, Sharon Pisciotto, Carolyn Mau, Alan Mau and Vera Choy on their last day at the pier

If you’ve ever owned a fishing pole or even held one over the last 28 years, chances are you’ve made your way to Heeia Kea Pier in Windward Oahu. And if you did, you may have been touched by the Choy family.

“A lot of fishermen came and went through this place,” says David Aquino of Kaneohe. “I guess people move on and it’s a sad day for us.”

“I’ve been here since I was a little kid, coming down here eating, fishing and diving, and now Ernie them not going be here. It’s going to be different, real different,” adds Frank Shiroma.

Ernie is Ernie Choy. For 28 years, he, his mother Vera, sisters Sharon and Mimi and the rest of the Choys have served Hawaii’s fishing community. The family-operated business included one of the most popular plate lunch stands on the island, a mini-mart, tackle shop and harbor gas pump.

“They had a really good deli over there and the food was good,” says Aquino. “French fries, hamburgers, beef stew - we’re going to miss that.”

Need a Band-Aid, they had it. A papio hook, no problem. Regular gas for your lawn mower, just come by.

It was a one-stop shop and not just for fishermen.

Through the years, they served canoe paddlers, Japanese tourists, aunties and uncles from Hanapepe and even stars from Hollywood.

Rain or shine, seven days a week, the Choys were there.

“They’re sad to see us go and they’re saying why don’t you stay here a little longer and make it 30 years instead of 28” says Mimi Mau. “I said it’s time for us to leave.”

“I have mixed feelings, I’m going to miss the people and I’m going to miss seeing all the children that I’ve watched grow up here,” says Sharon Pisciotto. “I want to know what it’s like to be at home and I really want to spend more time with my granddaughters.”

Besides loyal customers, the Choys say they’ll miss the memorable moments.

“Of course the natural disasters like Hurricane Iniki,” says Pisciotto. “We were here as long as we could and then we said that’s it, we’re going home and take care of our own homes and our own families.”

Along the way there were also tsunami alerts, floods and a few earthquakes.

“We cooked with gas stoves, so when the electricity goes out in the area everybody comes down to have food to eat or buy ice. They just lined up to buy ice,” says Mau.

And who could forget the crowd that gathered in September 1982 when two fishermen pulled up to the pier with a 13-foot, 6-inch, 983-pound tiger shark tangled in their net?

The massive crowds returned again in 2003 when a school of ‘aweoweo arrived at the pier and stayed for weeks, turning Kaneohe Bay into a red sea.

“It was crazy, people were coming early just so that they could get a spot, and people would get angry if you were in their spot,” says Mau.

Pisciotto also recalls other arrivals, including the Hokule’a.

And twice in recent years the Blue Angels roared over Kaneohe Bay.

“Flying right over our heads, it was beautiful. You could almost touch them flying over the building,” she remembers, and then adds, “Great memories, memories that I’ll have forever, and I’m so happy we were here to have them.”

“They’ll be sorely missed,” says Aquino.

Indeed they will - a generous family who gave more than they had to for nearly 30 years.

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