Donor Stories

Honoring a Family and a Way of Life

Pal Eldredge '64, Denise Eldredge Sagapolutele '91 and Waileia Mineshima-Eldredge '94
A loveable bear of a man in shorts and polo shirt relaxes for a moment on a bench outside Dillingham Hall, waving as old friends pass, hugging a cousin, chatting with students he's taught through the years. Suddenly he raises a hand and points to a pair of rising seniors.
"Rachael! Oh my gosh!" says Pal Eldredge '64. "I haven't see you in forever! I taught your brother." He turns to her friend and smiles. "Your grandfather is 'Bomb,' right? We used to play football and basketball against each other!" The girls grin and plant kisses on his cheek, delighted to talk story with a man who has been part of life at Punahou for at least the last half-century.

Though he's been at every intersection of campus life since 1970 when he returned to Punahou as a fifth-grade teacher, there is simply no easy definition for what Pal means to the School. His kindness, generosity, warm-hearted spirit, love of sports and music have touched the hearts and lives of thousands of young people, including President Barack Obama '79 whom he taught in fifth grade.

"For me and for my family, Punahou is just a way of life," says Pal. "We believe in the School, in the mission, and in the way academics, the arts and athletics are taught. If you want to be a musician, or a painter, you can do that. If you want to be in musical theater or drama, you can do that. If you want to be an athlete, or a National Merit Scholar, you can do that. Punahou provides you with the opportunities."

Since Punahou's earliest days, there has been an ancestor of the Eldredge family at the School. Pal's great-great-grandfather was Charles Hastings Judd, who came to Punahou in 1842. His mother, Leilehua Judd Eldredge, graduated in 1926.

"And I was almost born here," laughs his younger daughter, Waileia Mineshima-Eldredge '94, now part of the Advancement department at the School. "My mom went into labor at his baseball game." Pal nods at the memory. They finished the game – at her mother's insistence – and made it to the hospital with barely 20 minutes to spare.

"We grew up on the baseball field," says Denise Eldredge Sagapolutele '91 who works in the Punahou cafeteria and whose husband is an assistant operations supervisor at the School. "Dad's students and his players were our family too."
Waileia agrees. "I work here. I volunteer here. Punahou is literally woven into the fabric of my being. Dad used to tell us when we were little: There's family, there's Punahou, and then everything else."

Though he retired almost 10 years ago, Pal is still on campus almost every day as a full-time volunteer. Step into the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood and he's in a circle of kindergartners and first-graders, strumming his guitar and singing Hawaiian mele or old Punahou fight songs. Peek into a gathering of students preparing for the Holoku Pageant months in advance, and he's there, patiently guiding them through the music that sweeps audiences away at these spectacular annual performances. On Alexander Field, you might find him helping to roast 1,500 pounds of pork for Alumni Lu'au. Down on Chamberlain Field, you'll probably see him at a baseball game, a sport that's been close to his heart since he played it as a student.

During this special anniversary year, the tireless volunteerism of Pal and his daughters was visible everywhere – from a retrospective Holoku Pageant to the nationwide launch of the Ku'u Punahou campaign to Denise's 25-year Reunion, with its celebratory worldwide toast.

To honor the School that has been part of their extended family for so long, Pal's daughters led the decision to create the "Pal Fund." This financial aid endowment will be funded over the coming years, honoring their School for its 175th birthday and their father, who has always been there for Punahou.