Hawaii News — A Memoriam For Ted Braxton

Photos by Tiffany Edwards Hunt. All rights reserved. Use with permission only.

 

(A version of this story appears in the June 8, 2011 edition of the Big Island Weekly.)

By Tiffany Edwards Hunt

Friends and family of a 22-year-old University of Hawaii-Hilo student fatally struck on his moped by an alleged drunk driver Memorial Day weekend are speaking out about the kind of person he was and how his death shouldn’t be in vain.

Theodore “Ted” Braxton’s grandmother, Lara, from her home in Pennsylvania, wrote on bigislandchronicle.com that Ted Braxton “had come home” when he moved to Hawaii four years ago.

“He loved Hawaii and his goal post graduation was to lead a choir on the stage he helped to build at age 18,” said Lara Braxton of Ted. “He wanted to give back and be a help in the place he called home.  In the truest sense of the word, he was and will forever remain a Hawaiian.  His precious ashes are there.”

Through blog entries, Facebook page status updates, or in testimony at a Kalapana memorial, family and friends described a fun-loving, brilliant person who loved music, performing arts, books, philosophy, spirituality, communal living, and women.  Some described him as “the James Dean of Puna,” others, “Casanova,” even “John Wayne” for the way he once rode a horse bareback.

At his June 3 memorial, a man who met Ted at Kehena Beach spoke of trading “Blues Brothers” sunglasses to learn some guitar licks.  A University of Hawaii-Hilo student he met on a campus park bench recalled meeting him in those same sunglasses as Ted recommended to him “The Black Keys,” which is now his favorite band.

A lesbian twice his age told of being tempted by his flirtatious eyes; two women described the debonair lover they found in Ted and one former girlfriend wrote asking that her words about Ted be read at his memorial.

“I will never forget you Ted. I will never forget our first kiss on top of Akaka falls or watching the lava pour into the ocean under the full moon, or how you would climb up coconut trees just to make me juice for breakfast,” Katherine “Kate” Schofield wrote.  “You were too beautiful for this earth, I always told you that, and now it is true.”

Jeri Negrillo, Ted’s most recent girlfriend, Jeri Negrillo, with Ted’s brother Sam Braxton, shared excerpts of his voluminous writings and poems in moleskin journals.

“What I loved about Ted was his Wainaku spirit,” Jeri said, referring to the house they lived in with many roommates.  “I loved his prankster spirit.” Ted threw knives at the walls, he was that playful.

His father, Don, recalled them roughhousing and how Ted was like a little “demon” who would climb all over you and stick a finger in any and every orifice.  He recalled Ted’s laughter at age 10 at his father’s fear of rattlesnakes, and his offer to go ahead of Don on the trail.  Don recalled a camping trip when Ted took sticks to a fire and transformed the ember into illuminated red streaks.  The religious studies professor said he envisions his son as a demonic spirit in a pagan fire dance on the cliffs of the island.

“I want to thank Ted for teaching his father to hang on for the ride,” Don Braxton said.

While Ted’s family and many of his friends transcended their emotions to reflect on Ted’s virtues, some expressed their anger, even rage, for Ted’s senseless tragedy involving drunk driving.

“I’m a little angry at the way he went,” said a friend of Ted’s from UH Hilo Performing Arts program. “He was such a young, talented guy.  I’m pissed. I want a law that anybody who maims or kills someone should lose all driving privileges.”

“Knowing Ted he’d say, ‘No, it’s cool. But it ain’t cool with me.  He had a passion for life, that little man, that big man had so much that I don’t have.”

A petition circulated the memorial.  Candles burned at an altar filled with flowers, keepsakes and framed photographs and a colorful painting of Ted.  Banners read, “Auwe! Ted!”

The preliminary hearing scheduled for Kailianu, who is charged with first-degree negligent homicide, DUI, driving without insurance and causing an accident involving death or serious bodily injury, has been postponed.  Deputy Prosecutor Mitch Roth is expected to take the case against him.

6 replies
  1. DonBraxton
    DonBraxton says:

    Thanks for this posting. To my understanding the charges have been upped to a class A felony manslaughter charge.

    Ted had and has a way of being present when he is absent and absent when he is present. Things are happening behind his eyes and he is a little choosy about telling what it is. You never quite know where reality is for Ted so acting was perfect for him. He liked to remake reality around him so the rest of us are puzzled. Lovely little dancing ga
    me with him coming into any going out of focus.

  2. DonBraxton
    DonBraxton says:

    Thanks for this posting. To my understanding the charges have been upped to a class A felony manslaughter charge.

    Ted had and has a way of being present when he is absent and absent when he is present. Things are happening behind his eyes and he is a little choosy about telling what it is. You never quite know where reality is for Ted so acting was perfect for him. He liked to remake reality around him so the rest of us are puzzled. Lovely little dancing game with him coming into any going out of focus.

  3. Mark
    Mark says:

    Well said Don…present when absent…absent when present….he loved acting in Raj and Kate’s troupe. Congrats to Sam on his graduation day…though it must be bittersweet. You are a wonderful man Don…Teddy was lucky to have you as his father and mentor!!

  4. Jeri
    Jeri says:

    Tiffany, thank you for covering this. That service was AMAZING. For everyone involved, I believe. Thanks for the pictures, too, especially of that spiral circle.

  5. H. Lara Braxton
    H. Lara Braxton says:

    Comment about Teddy having a wonderful Dad is true. At several times I said to my own son how I’d love to be his kid ….and I guess that sums it up better than a long litany of reasons….. truly incredible parenting!!!!

    I also want to share a conversation my Grandson shared with me. He was in Conference of the Birds and really liked the way the “Birds” representing life traits and values would begin in the audience and then swoop down on stage. He felt people got the message of the play ever more clearly because of the dramatic way the did it. He really loved acting….and I think conveying how important the arts could be in the day to day life of us.

    In an earlier article writer Tiffany Edwards Hunt proposed a piece about The Monster Within Each of Us. One of the mediums to allow for not only owning but expressing that part of us is theater, the arts……I think this was another contribution 22 year old Teddy who was a passionately gifted artistic common man living his world in the present tried to do. He walked in kindness in his life and with his fellow man for all his days.

    Today we celebrate his brother’s graduation….and you are so right. Bittersweet is as close as a word can come……

    Thank you Tiffany for your article and the incredible pictures.

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