Hokule'a to give Michael Tongg final ride Aug. 12

By Suzanne Roig, Advertiser Staff Writer, July 28, 2007

Mike, Fishing on Hokule‘a
A memorial service and scattering of ashes will be held Aug. 12 for Michael Tongg, a longtime waterman, paddler, lawyer and family man.

Tongg, a former Hokule'a crew member who also was president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, died July 13 at his Niu Valley home after a four-year battle with lung cancer. He was 63.

"I'd like my dad to be remembered most for his dedication to whatever he was involved with," said Stacy Tongg, one of Tongg's four children.

The memorial service will be at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's coconut grove. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. and the service will begin at 11:30 a.m.

A scattering of ashes will be held from Hokule'a at the "Tongg's" surf break near Diamond Head at 3:30 p.m. The family invites people to a celebration-of-life reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Anuenue Canoe Club site, next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon. For more information, go to

In April friends organized a tribute to Tongg called "Paddle From The Heart." More than 300 paddlers participated in the canoe race, which was a money-raising event for the Tongg family.

Tongg gave from his heart every day, said Jan Tongg, his wife of 33 years. Over the years the Tonggs cared for more than 50 foster children, providing them a roof and a safe haven.

"He looked like a bear on the outside, but he was a pussycat on the inside," Jan Tongg said. "He had a big, big heart for people and that's why he was always there to help anyone and everyone.

"When he saw a need, he couldn't turn it down. Our house was always open."

While many of Tongg's friends remember him for his paddling and ocean sports, his family and others say he was also passionate about his work as a family law attorney.

"He personalized all his cases," Family Court Judge Frances Wong said. "The cases became very real to him. It wasn't just another job, another case or another child."

The family chose to hold the memorial at the Royal Hawaiian because that's where Jan and Mike Tongg met in the 1970s, Jan Tongg said. She was a tour guide, he a hula boy/cameraman.

The day before the service the Tongg family will celebrate the wedding of their youngest son, Matthew.

"It's a full circle," Jan Tongg. "We'll be sticking together."

Aloha, waterman

By Brandi Salas / Star Bulletin, August 13, 2007

Enduring choppy waves and wind, about a hundred people gathered in boats, canoes and kayaks off Waikiki yesterday to pay their respects to the late Michael Alan Poi Wo Tongg, a waterman, attorney and family man who died from lung cancer on July 13.

The poignant ash-scattering service brought together the crew of Hokule'a, the Polynesian voyaging canoe, and canoe club paddlers. Following chants, or pule, family members threw the flowers strewn on their leis into the water, and a helicopter dropped flowers above the watercraft.

"It's an honor to sail for him," said Nainoa Thompson, Hokule'a navigator and a close friend of Tongg's. "The Hokule'a would not have been in the water today if it was not for him."

Tongg, 63, a family court attorney for more than 30 years, was a former president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. He also led the Oahu Canoe Racing Association, Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association and International Polynesian Canoe Federation.

The Tongg family joined Thompson and Hokule'a crew members aboard the canoe and scattered Tongg's ashes at a surf sport called, fittingly, Tongg's, named after the family, just west of Diamond Head.

"That's where he belongs, at Tongg's," said his wife, Janice Tongg. "It was where he learned how to surf and paddle. That was his wish as a waterman. He should have been born a porpoise."

The services began at 10 a.m. with a celebration of life at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's Coconut Grove, then shifted to the sea via the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

Off Waikiki about 10 boats gathered around the Hokule'a, with Tongg's fellow paddlers arriving by canoe and kayak. As the last canoe arrived, Ka'ohu Harada, 23, a crew member of the canoe Nama Hoe, started the service by chanting a tribute.

Harada ended with the waterman's saying: "Take care of the ocean, take care of the land, take care of one another," and "paddle with your heart."

The paddlers and sailors erupted in cheers and goodbyes to their "Uncle Mike."

Family members and friends ceremoniously dived into the water after the ashes were scattered.

Janice Tongg said her husband would have enjoyed the service on the water.

"He loved the Lord, his family and helping people," she said. "His wish and dreams are that canoeing is to go around the world and the Hokule'a is to go around the world. By using the Hokule'a and the canoes, we bring the ohana and harmony to everybody."

Said Thompson, "Mike loves his canoe. He's a man of the sea. It is his home. It nurtured his values. It's where he exercised his dreams, hopes and aspirations, and it was where he became the best he was."

In addition to his wife, Tongg is survived by children Malissa, Matthew, Michael and Stacy.