When I met Chad [Rowan = Akebono], he wasn’t that nice of a person, I guess ’cause all of the stress and stuff, but when I got to know him, he was one nice guy. Real humble. But mean personalities. I’ll tell you how he is. I been over there seven and a half years. The jungyo tournaments, comes in the morning. Doesn’t say one word. Sits down. Lies down. Rests a while. Gets up: “Mawashi!” Put on his belt, put on his yukata, walk straight to the dohyo. After he practice, he comes back, take a shower, then he start talking. “Oh, my back sore.” He neva like joking around. After that, then he jumps out of the shower, then he goes to eat. Different attitude. Quiet again, eating. Then he go back to his room. Joking around, talking story, listening to the radio, talking on the phone. Time for wrestle: pau. Attitude again. That’s why I used to watch his moods. I used to just practice with that. I know how he act already. I know what pisses him off. After practice, he go back to the shower; nobody bother him. Come back from the shower, eat, nobody bother him. After he pau eat, then you can talk story with him. You gotta catch him one perfect time. You don’t catch him one perfect time, he’s a bitch. Nobody can talk to him at all. —PERCY KIPAPA (DAIKI), 12/98
Percy Kipapa was found dead in a truck from multiple stab wounds on 16 May 2005 in Honolulu. —Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 19 May 2005
His friend, Kealiiokalani Meheula, was found guilty of second-degree murder in June 2006, and was sentenced to the mandatory life imprisonment with the possibility of parole on 6 September 2006. —Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 September 2006
“Percy Kipapa — he was my friend,” Meheula said yesterday, breaking down as he asked Kipapa’s family for forgiveness. “I loved him with my heart, and I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”
George Kipapa said he did not know how much love Percy, the youngest of the Kipapas’ three children, had shared with the people here and in Japan until his funeral.
“I’m not only proud that he had a career in sumo; most of all, I’m proud he learned the word love,” Kipapa said.
As for Meheula, Kipapa said he hoped God would have mercy on him and that in the future he would learn to let go of his anger and embrace others, not hurt them. “Today we gotta learn to love, not to hate,” Kipapa said.
The Honolulu Advertiser account on 7 September adds another pertinent detail.
Also speaking in court was Mark Panek, a friend of Percy Kipapa and author of a biography on sumo champion Chad Rowan. Panek said he met Percy Kipapa in Japan and said the other sumo wrestlers from Hawai’i miss him.
It looks as if Panek’s next biography has just been assigned to him. A biography with less triumph and more tragedy.