Solomon Islands NativesSolomon Islands Natives
"The words can't really describe what a notable man he was," says Danny Kennedy, a resident American who now lives in the Solomon Islands - and no relationship with JFK.
"Whenever we saw him, he was just the liveliest, most vigorous little fellow - he bounced around with all that power, even at the age of 93. But, folks from abroad, folks from America, they're the ones who said to my grandpa that he was a particular man - that he was the man who saved John F. Kennedy.
Travellers spend a few hrs on or around the ship's shipwreck and then floated three and a half mile to the next isle. In the hope of improving her salvage opportunities and in quest of clean waters, Kennedy took his team back into the sea and took a strenuous bath to a bigger isle further southwards.
When they were sailing along the shore on another near situated isle, they saw two men in a kayak - it was Kumana and his boyfriend Biuku Gasa. First, the two Solomon Islanders were afraid of Kennedy and Ross, says Kumana's grandchild Malakana. Luckily, they ran into the remainder of Kennedy's teammates on the other side of the Isle, who said they were from America.
" Kumana himself remembered the time when he saw the victims in an 2002 National Geographic interview: "Some were crying and some of them came and shaking each other. Kennedy saw us.... he ran and hugged us. However, Kumana and Gasa successfully carried the word and a bailout operation was started for the wounded, depleted and starving US yachtsmen, many of whom believed they were already deceased.
He is considered a key figure in his campaign for the 1960 elections. "This was a decisive time in his life," says Tom Putnam, head of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. In spite of Kennedy's ascent through the midst of US politics, he did not neglect Kumana and Gasa.
During Kumana's 2002 interviewee, he talked about the minute he found out that Kennedy had been murdered: "My grief was great," he said. "But Kumana and Gasa met a member of the Kennedy mob. In 2002 Max Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's father and President Kennedy's grandson, traveled to the Solomon Islands.
"In the Solomon Islands it is customary to cry openly," says Danny Kennedy. "As Kumana and Gasa saw Max, they both burst into tears and there was a big hug for some while. They' been digging up paddles, paddling together and I think they really enjoy their days with Max.
" Ghaza died in 2005. Kumana Kennedy wanted to show his respect in 2008. "Kumana's story had been handed down from father to son and was always handed over to the chief," says Putnam. "Kennedy said, as President Kennedy was his chieftain, he wanted it laid on his tomb.
" Members of the Kennedy familiy fulfilled his wish at a personal wedding at the Arlington graveyard. The Solomon Islands are also reminiscent of Kennedy - the small islet to which he and his men first went swimming is now known as Kennedy Isle. A cabinet built by Kumana now serves as a monument to the former presidential rescuer.