By BRIAN PERRY, Assistant City Editor
KAHULUI – Sheri Maxwell had been wondering what she would bring to an upcoming family gathering to mark the first anniversary of the untimely death of her sister, DebraAnn "Debbie" Kamali'i, a kumu hula who had been an inspiration for a halau of inmates at Maui Community Correctional Center.
Then, on Sunday, the answer came out of the ground in her backyard.
Maxwell, 43, a transportation coordinator for Child and Family Service, was in the yard of her Kaulana Street residence in Kahului when she noticed two roots where she had planted a sweet potato about a year ago.
"As I dug with my hands, it kept getting bigger and bigger," she said. "I started screaming, 'Oh my God!' "
She said her boyfriend, Rowell Kim, came over to help. He kept digging and digging and digging. Finally, he pulled out a massive sweet potato. They rushed it to a bathroom scale, and it weighed 30 pounds.
Maxwell said she planned to investigate whether the oversized sweet potato has tipped the scales enough to get into the Guinness World Records.
She said there wasn't anything special about the somewhat sandy soil at her residence, and she didn't use any fertilizer – just water. Actually, Maxwell wondered if the giant potato could owe its amazing growth to the inadvertent help of the family's 10-year-old female dog, a chow-spitz mix named Panda.
Maxwell said Panda doesn't usually add any kind of soil amendment to where the sweet potato eventually surfaced, but the dog would provide her own irrigation.
For the time being, nothing is taking away from the family's amazement at the size of the sweet potato.
"It's huge. It's the size of a turkey," Maxwell said. "I feel it's a blessing."
And it was the answer to what she'll bring to the event to mark the anniversary of her sister's death. Kamali'i, a 47-year-old Makawao woman, died May 23, 2005, of septic shock brought on by a leg infection.
Her unexpected death was a shock to her family, to her fellow employees at Maui Economic Opportunity Inc., and to more than 60 MCCC inmates who had grown to look up to her as a mentor and the leader of their halau hula, Na Paahau Maoli.
Maxwell said family members are wondering how the enormity of the sweet potato will affect its taste. But she said her mother, kumu hula Nina Maxwell, knows that the potato combined with the significance of the family gathering will be – sweet.
Sheri Maxwell has a son, Dane Maxwell, 22; and a daughter, Brittnie Gouveia, 11. She is the daughter of Native Hawaiian cultural specialist and Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.
Original article URL: http://www.mauinews.com/story.aspx?id=19994