The Garden Island
Notice #: 0001249332-01
Funeral Notices


LAWRENCE KELIIAA KEOLANUI, JR.

Lawrence Keliia’a Keolanui Jr. was born on August 28, 1933 to Lawrence and Louise Keolanui and passed away on November 9, 2019 at the age of 86. Larry grew up in Aiea and Manoa, Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, at the age of 8, he was standing close to the water’s edge in Aiea and watched the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He dodged bullets from a Japanese plane that was on a bombing run. It was strafing the street he was running up to get home. That experience ignited his patriotism and greatly influenced his later decision to choose a career in the US Army. His family moved from Aiea to Manoa after the government confiscated their house by Marshall Law. Larry and his brothers Mickey and Stan hiked all over Manoa Valley. That’s where Larry developed a keen sense of direction. Those were the years of rationing, so Larry would fish to supplement family meals. Larry was very musical. He played the ukulele and guitar. He also had an excellent singing voice which his younger sisters Lani and Lorna appreciated. As a Roosevelt high school Rough Rider, he made his mark as an athlete. Larry was a quarterback on the football team and broke his arm during one game. He also played varsity basketball and track. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Hawaii on a basketball scholarship. At 6’3" he played center and travelled to the mainland many times. Larry’s outstanding swimming skills made the swimming coach try to recruit him. Larry stuck with basketball, but the swim coach asked him to swim races against US Olympic swimmer Dick Cleveland to keep him in shape. But it wasn’t all sports for Larry at UH. In 1952 he met the love of his life, Christie Ellis in dance class. They were married in 1953 in Kawaiahao Church. After Larry graduated with a B.A. in psychology, they travelled (and danced) all over the world when he accepted the only Regular Army commission given to their ROTC unit. His oldest daughter, Laura, was born in Honolulu when he was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. His next station was in Colorado Springs followed by Germany where they toured Europe in a 1956 Ford Customline and camped in an army issue camouflage tent. During this tour, he received the Expert Infantryman’s Badge. His son, Robert, was born in Ft. Riley, Kansas where Larry was with the 1st Infantry Division, The Big Red One. At his next post, Ft. Benning, Georgia, Home of the Infantry, his youngest daughter Cynthia was born. That is also where Larry taught Christie how to play golf. In 1962, Larry shipped out for his first tour in Vietnam as an advisor to a South Vietnamese Infantry Battalion. He was stationed in Quang Ngai Province and part of the first US advisory team to engage a North Vietnamese Army unit. They soundly defeated them. Lawrence earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Legion of Merit on this tour of duty. He returned to Hawaii in 1963 and taught ROTC at McKinley high school. In 1965 he was selected as an extra on the cast for the movie Hawaii. In 1966 he was stationed at Ft. Amador, Panama, Canal Zone. While there, he travelled to many South American countries. When the movie Hawaii was released he and Christie went to a movie theater to watch it. It was dubbed in Spanish, with English subtitles, while the Hawaiian characters spoke Hawaiian. Lawrence returned briefly to Hawaii in 1966 and bought his first house from his brother Mickey in Kailua so that his family would have a home while he served a second tour in Vietnam. This time he was the Executive Officer in the 60th Infantry, Riverine Brigade, the Army’s elite Riverine Forces supported by the Navy in the Mekong Delta. This Battalion is credited with saving the Mekong Delta area during the infamous 1968 Tet offensive, the largest and most massive offensive of the entire war. In May 1968 he was flown back to Hawaii, to Tripler Army Hospital for knee surgery. He refused being written up for a Purple Heart. However, for his valor he was awarded the Bronze Star, an Air Medal (Basic), Air Medal with "V" device, Army Commendation Medal with "V"device, Army Commendation Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster), National Defense Service Medal, Viet Nam Campaign Medal with 60 Device, Viet Nam Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Viet Namese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) 1969 was the year that he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel while stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas attending the Command and General Staff College. After that, he was stationed with the Continental Army Command at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. Then in 1973 he was Battalion Commander of 1100 men at the Infantry Training Center at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. From there, Larry was stationed at a high powered think tank at the Concepts Analysis Agency in Bethesda, Maryland in 1974. This is where he started seriously golfing. Two years later, Lawrence was stationed at the Pentagon, Washington D.C. The family lived in Fairfax, Virginia. Larry made a Hole-in-One at the Army Navy Country Club. In 1978, he was stationed at Ft. Shafter in Hawaii and they moved back into the Kailua house. A year later he took the test to become a member of Mensa. His IQ was very high, in the 99.9th percentile. After 26 years in the US Army, Larry retired in January of 1981. He started researching family genealogy and spending a lot more time golfing with Christie who made a Hole-in-One at Schofield Barracks Kalakaua golf course. Larry began volunteering as a Marshall at the Hawaiian Open Golf Tournament, eventually becoming Head Marshall. He enjoyed being up close watching the pros golf. On New Year’s night, 1988 Kawainui Swamp flooded and the flood waters flowed through the Coconut Grove area of Kailua destroying almost everything the family owned. Daughter Cynthia alerted them to the 4 feet of water in the house that woke her when her mattress start floating. Son Bob flew in from Maui to help with the clean up as did his daughter Laura and son-in-law John who flew in from Kauai. When Laura and John moved to Washington state in 1990, Larry was happy to visit them and his two grandchildren Johnny and Sarah. He and Christie were proud, doting grandparents. His grandchildren really brought out Larry’s rascally sense of humor and they spent a lot of time laughing and enjoying grandpa’s story telling talents. One of Larry’s favorite things was driving on the open road. Using Washington as a home base, he and Christie continued their travels reaching their goal of visiting all 50 states. After living a life full of adventure, travel, and people who loved him, Larry passed away from pneumonia after suffering from vascular dementia. His warm smile, sense of humor, generosity, singing, and zest for life will be greatly missed. Once again he will be with his fallen troops, older brother Mickey who passed away in 1990 and his beloved daughter Cynthia who passed away in 2015. He is survived by his devoted wife of 66 years Christie Ellis Keolanui, daughter Laura Keolanui Stark and her husband John, grandson John (Johnny) Stark and grand daughter Sarah Stark, son Robert (Bob) Keolanui and his wife Kathleen Gushikuma, son-in-law Bruce Iverson, brother Stanley Keolanui, sister Gladys (Lani) Morton, and sister Lorna (Leina’ala) Weise. The family would like to thank Hale Nani for taking care of Lawrence during his last years. Visitation for Lawrence Keolanui will be on DEC 11. 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM (HST) at Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary at Valley of the Temples 47-200 Kahekili Highway Kaneohe, HI, 96744 with the Memorial service to follow from 10:30-11:00. His full military burial will be at Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery, 45-349 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI, 96744 at 1:00 PM.

Arrangements Provided By: Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary