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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The "Brotherly Love" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished transferring my Hawaii photos from my computer to CDs.  Had quite a few of them even after trashing close to two thousand.  As I was editing the photos before saving them, I noticed a few that I took of a huge young man named Funaki who was sculpting wooden souvenirs in the courtyard at the Kaanapali Beach Resort in Maui.  
Funaki working on a sculpture.
I wrote a story about his work shortly after I returned from Hawaii at the end of October, but at the time never mentioned anything about our conver- sation we had dealing with football and one of his high school teammates when he was playing for the Kauai Red Raiders.  I mentioned to him that he had the physique of a football player and his eyes brightened.  That's all that was needed to take his mind off his carving for a few minutes.  I told him my son-in-law coached high school football in Maryland and had recently won his 100 game in 10 years.  He was quite impressed with the feat and began to tell me about his high school career.  Finally asked if I knew one of his high school teammates, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who had recently retired from the Baltimore Ravens in order to donate a kidney to his brother Chris who had been a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Ma'ake is the oldest of seven kids and he felt it was his responsibility to take care of his younger brothers and sisters.  "If your younger siblings need blood, it'll be my blood.  If they need a kidney, it'll have to be my kidney," he said.  Ma'ake, who wore #96 while playing for the Ravens, helped his team win Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 when the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.  Funaki told me that the Red Raiders were pretty good when he played, since he and Ma'ake both were close to 300 pounds in high school.  The Kemoeatu brothers both went to the University of Utah after high school.  
Chris, left, and Ma'ake at a press conference about a month
after Chris received a kidney from his brother Ma'ake.
Chris also experienced success in the NFL with the Steelers, winning the Super Bowl in 2006 and 2009.  When Chris first found out about the need for the kidney, he called to tell his brother.  After Ma'ake told him he would be the donor, Chris told him he first needed a coronary bypass.  They both stopped playing after the 2012 season to prepare for the operation.  The transplant operation took place at the University of Maryland Medical Center on August 27, 2014 and was a complete success.  I told Funaki that it must have been pretty tough lining up against him and Ma'ake in high school.  He smiled and told me that they loved playing together and he was hoping to get to see Ma'ake and Chris sometime soon.  Shortly, Funaki picked up his wooden mallet and got back to work.  His morning break was over.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of ordinary guy.

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