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Some very sad news today. A very good friend and one of the early founding members of the UFOhana, Wayne Creekmore, surrendered to the flow of life early this morning.
Wayne was from the south central region, Oklahoma I think, raised on a farm, graduated from Yale (I recall seeing a diploma thumbtacked to his bulletin board), where he studied Design under Buckminster Fuller. Somehow he he found his way to Marin County, by way of University of Hawaii Manoa, my alma mata, where he taught graphic design and photography. It’s here in the Bay Area where he “re-met” his future wife, Stephanie Behasa, (a great love story), who also played a major role in establishing Kanikapila Fridays.
Being a true “Designer for the Real World”, he applied his amazing design sense to everything he touched or became involved with. Be it, construction, graphic design, music, user interfaces for software, musical instruments, malasadas, his marriage, well, I think you get the idea.
Wayne was instrumental in bringing me to Marin back in 1990. He hired me as his Technical Support manager for a startup software company he and his wife founded. They were developing Peer-to-Peer networking software for PCs in the early days of Microsoft Windows. I couldn’t believe they were offering me an incredible “ground floor” opportunity! I gave my two weeks notice to Wang Laboratories and hopped on plane from Oahu to Marin. Wayne picked me up at the airport. As we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I remember looking up at the red towers against the azure sky and thanking him for providing me my “Dream Job”, and he replied, “We all need to follow our dreams . . . ”
Being a startup in Marin was tough, competition from Silicon Valley, brutal. But Wayne and Stephanie always continued forward . . . Imua! Eventually, the company gained enough clientele to attract the attention of Microsoft, who eventually purchased the company and integrated some of our technology into their Windows Operating System.
Wayne was responsible for “re-building” the UFOHQ (our home) during a time when I had just been laid off, frantically searching for a job and having to work on a recently acquired fixer-upper house. He generously offered his time and skills, without compensation, to help renovate the house.
He figured 3 months tops and we’d be done, how could I say no?
After 9 months of rebuilding walls, demolishing and building a new kitchen, living room, bed rooms, bathrooms, he completely rebuilt our home to what it is today. In the process he taught me how to put up walls, build wall frames, re-route air ducts, insulate, paint, check for live wires without a voltmeter (not very funny Wayne) and so much more. He and Stephanie even put us up in their home while all this went on . . . true ‘Ohana. Even more amazing was that he was able to re-build without plans, no architectural drawings, just building as he goes along to some master mental plan in his brain. He teasingly told me that he was glad to work on the house because he could try things out on my house before he did it to his. I told him I was more than glad to be his guinea pig! Our kitchen and master bath rebuilds are examples of his amazing design sense.
So for 9 months he would point to a nail and I would hammer it, he would put up sheetrock and I would plaster it, prime it and paint it, he would ask my opinion on something and I would always reply, “I trust you Wayne, whatever you think is right.” And he always was.
A couple of years after the house was renovated we started up Friday Night Kanikapila (another long story of which you are all a part of now). Our wives were involved with Hula back then and of course what goes better with Hula than Ukulele, except for maybe Spam?
Wayne started with the UFOhana from year one. At first, starting with the Baritone Ukulele and then moving onto the Bass, which seemed more suited for his large hands (which came from probably from years of hard farm work).
In time the UFOhana outgrew the living room and I decided to purchase a “prefab” sunroom, which became the UFOHQ as it stands now. During the construction of the new UFOHQ, Wayne, keeping to his renaissance man ways, continued his studies in music and became quite a musician. Not surprisingly, he would also rebuild unwanted, discarded instruments into very functional and beautiful musical objects.
It was remarkable to watch him turn what appeared to be junk into amazing, functional structures (a huge retaining wall built from broken discarded concrete sidewalks) and beautiful objects (a stand up bass built from an old beat up guitar), or turn pieces of scrap would into sculptural Ukulele Hangers.
The row of Ukulele Hangers (below) in the UFOHQ were constructed by him from some scrap lumber and tool hangers. He decorated them by burning in an intricate Polynesian Tattoo pattern and stained it a rich dark brown.
. . . ukulele hangers by Wayne . . .
The flooring in the Lanai was laid by Wayne, Clifford (another great friend) and myself in one day. Below you see him laying the last piece in to the floor.
I got a chance to meet his mother when she visited with them. I watched as he and Steph cared for her through her own life journey. It was obvious that he was a very kind and dedicated son and Stephanie, a saint.
Wayne will be sorely missed by his friends and extended ‘Ohana in Marin and beyond. I will never forget this incredibly kind, generous man, artist, musician, designer, engineer, Malasada Maker and great friend who showed me how to follow my dreams . . . me ke aloha pumehana Wayne Creekmore.
Softly the breaths come,
Gentle shadows beckoning,
Like the light we go.
Malama Pono Kakou,