Keo Keshner

It was in 1941 when Maui's Alexander House Settlement Men's swimming team journeyed to Maplewood, Missouri. to defend its National A.A.U. Men's Senior Long Course Swimming Championships (which it has for the past two years - 1939 in Detroit and 1940 in Santa Barbara, California); that a human drama was in the making.

The team included Captain Keo Nakama (who only a month ago had an appendectomy), Bill Smith (Hawaii' latest swimming sensation), Bunny Nakama (Keo's younger brother and the defending 1500 m. freestyle champion), Halo Hirose (Hawaii's sprint champion), Jose Balmores (the 15 year-old all-around swimmer and a recent victor over Adolf Kiefer, the U.S. Olympic champion in the IM), Paul Herron (Stockton, California's outstanding freestyle swimmer, who trained on Maui for the championships), and Charlie Oda (the rising freestyler).

Also making the trip were Bob Tribble (Hawaii's backstroke champion) and Carlos Rivas (Jose Balmores' closest rival in the IM and butterfly), both of whom represented their Honolulu clubs.

In addition to the men's team, Maui's women champions (who were on their way to the Women' National A.A.U. Senior Long Course Swimming Championships at High Point, North Carolina) was in Maplewood, too.

Those in the group were: Mrs. Mary Sakamoto (chaperone), Miss Grace Crockett (assistant), Fujiko "Fudge" Katsutani (U.S. Breaststroke Champion), Chic Miyamoto (U.S. IM Champion), and Toy Takeyama (Hawaii's backstroke champion).

In the meet, Jose Balmores surprised everyone by defeating the defending champion, Jim Counsilman (who was the head swimming coach at University of Indiana) in the 200m. butterfly and 300m I.M. Halo Hirose placed within the first three in both the 100 and 200m freestyle events, Bill Smith won both the 200 and 400m freestyle events and placing second in the 800m event after a heated race with Keo. Keo Nakama took both the 800 and 1500m freestyle championships (dethroning his brother Bunny in the latter event).

In the relay events, Maui successfully defended its 800m freestyle relay for the third straight year, and placed third in the medley relay.

The 800m relay team included Jose Balmores, Halo Hirose, Charlie Oda and anchored by Bill Smith.

In the overall team points the Alexander House Settlement team scored 72 points to eclipse the total points of all the other teams.

While all the excitement was taking place in the meet, a family sitting in the stands was most impressed by the courage, gallantry, tenacity and good sportsmanship, plus all the great swimming of Keo Nakama.

It was Joe Keshner, the owner of the "Good Earth Ranch" (noted for its great black Angus stock) of New Florence, Missouri, and Keiki who were attracted to Keo from the memorable days in Maplewood; from then, on, they became Nakama's staunches supporter and friend.

To further his adoration of the Maui star, Joe Keshner named his son, who was born in 1948, Keo Keshner as a tribute to his idol.

Thereon, the whole Keshner clan were frequent visitors to Hawaii and the children took the opportunity to improve their versatility in the water.

After the family's return to their farm, both Keo Keshner and his sister Kiinani, participated regularly in the A.A.U. age-group swimming meets in Missouri and Keo, especially, proved himself a winner in most of his races. Keo Keshner's youngest sister Kalani Mele, has visited Hawaii in recent years with her father.

Later, when young Keshner reached college age, he returned to Honolulu to attend Chaminade College. While here, he joined Hawaii Swimming Club to further his swimming interest; however, all of this was not to be, as Uncle Sam called him to bear arms.

Not long after that, Keo Keshner was killed in action while serving his country in the Vietnam holocaust.

Keo Keshner will be remembered in the hearts of Hawaii Swimming Club members for his tenacity in the water and the kindness of his family.