(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.Â In the truest sense of the word, he was and will forever remain a Hawaiian.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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 topÂ of Akaka falls or watching the lava pour into the ocean under the fullÂ moon, or how you would climb up coconut trees just to make me juiceÂ for breakfast,” Katherine “Kate” Schofield wrote.Â “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.Â “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.Â 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. Â Don recalled a camping trip when Ted took sticks to a fire and transformed the ember into illuminated red streaks. Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Candles burned at an altar filled with flowers, keepsakes and framed photographs and a colorful painting of Ted.Â 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.Â Deputy Prosecutor Mitch Roth is expected to take the case against him.