Some unusual stories made their way onto these pages in 2016

For many, 2016 will go down as the year the Grim Reaper visited dozens of celebrities, but even in a year like this, a lot of what makes the news is weird, wacky — and occasionally, even laughable.

For many, 2016 will go down as the year the Grim Reaper visited dozens of celebrities, but even in a year like this, a lot of what makes the news is weird, wacky — and occasionally, even laughable.

This week, Demetrios Hrysikos of Spartanburg, S.C., managed to capture the passing of so many famous folks in a productive and humorous way, starting a GoFundMe page titled “Help protect Betty White from 2016.” Thankfully, the beloved TV comedienne, at least publicly, has shown no sign of slowing down, less than a month from her 95th birthday. And the fundraiser for Spartanburg Little Theater, as of Thursday, raised $7,816 in just a day.

Here on Hawaii Island, we’ve also had our share of the strange, quirky — and sometimes funny, recapped here.

Hare apparent — In August, the Big Island Invasive Species Committee posted fliers about rabbits running loose and warning of harm to local ecosystems if the prolific little critters establish a wild population here.

Frannie Kinslow Brewer, BIISC communications director, said there were four reports of rabbits in different places in the previous week, “so it’s not the same rabbit.”

She said she spotted a loose rabbit in Hilo “but haven’t been able to catch him yet. He’s a wily one.”

In May, after traps had been set for two weeks, three rabbits were caught in Waimea. One was a pregnant female that later had eight babies. All were placed in homes. The rabbits apparently were formerly captive creatures.

Trisha Broley, owner of Lava Rock Rabbits, said people raise rabbits for meat, but few folks “can kill a living rabbit and even fewer know how to do this humanely.” She said people don’t know what to do when “dinner is no longer an option.”

To report rabbit sightings, call 443-4036.

Menehune: Fact or fiction — The creators of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” series spent two weeks in Hawaii, including the Big Island, in late May and early June interviewing people who claim to have encountered Hawaii’s mythical leprechaun-like beings.

Sean Mantooth, senior producer for “Finding Bigfoot,” said he hoped to track down descendants of 65 people in Kauai’s Wainiha Valley who claimed Menehune ancestry in an early 1800s census.

“We never thought we’d do an episode here, but the legends of the Menehune proved too much to resist,” Mantooth said. “We’re working very closely with native islanders on all fronts to give our audience the intriguing investigations they’ve come to expect while also treating the topic with respect.”

Mantooth said the show will be “as much travelogue as it is us walking around in the dark hooting and hollering.”

According to the International Movie Database website, the episode should air sometime in 2017.

Made in the shades — Betty Webster of Waimea claims a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest sunglasses collection, 1,506 pairs and counting as of late April.

The 87-year-old woman, who said her goal is to collect 3,000 pairs, has shades in all shades of the rainbow, New Year’s Eve sunglasses for every year since 1999 and sunglasses sporting stripes, polka dots and sparkles.

Webster received a commendation from Hawaii County, and the Waimea Arts Council hosted a celebration in her honor. Of course, she had the perfect pair of shades to celebrate the event, which spelled out the word “COOL.”

Making an impression — Piotr Michael hated the sound of his own voice. Unlike most people, he did something about it, becoming an impressionist.

The former Mountain View resident and University of Hawaii at Hilo alum started small, uploading videos on YouTube, doing a radio show on the campus station and acting in school productions.

Moving to Hollywood at age 21, he enrolled in the Groundlings, an acclaimed improvisation school and comedy troupe. That led to voice-over gigs, spots on “The Today Show” and “The Howard Stern Show” and being cast in a revival of “MADtv” on CW, where his characters included Donald Trump.

Describing his craft as “sort of like a magic trick,” Michael said, “Somehow, when you channel a character you get this ability to just say what you want because it’s not who you are and that’s so fun.”

It’s unclear whether the show, which aired for eight episodes, will be picked up for another season, but Michael, whose family name is Walczuk, appeared in several sketches as the president-elect, including “The Newlywed Game” with Bill and Hillary Clinton vs. Donald and Melania Trump.

Beyond the call — When a water main break in early October caused an interruption in service to much of upper Hilo, customers calling the after-hours emergency line were answered by call-center operators in South Carolina.

Komohana Street resident George Lewitzki said he talked to two people, a woman operator and her male supervisor, both with heavy southern accents.

“I asked them, ‘Where are you?’ She said, ‘We’re in Hilo,’” Lewitzki said. “I said, ‘Excuse me, what street are you on?’ And they tried to pronounce (Kekuanaoa Street). “I said, ‘You guys aren’t in Hilo.’ I just drove past the water place. The place is dark.’ She said, ‘We’re in South Carolina.’”

“That’s our after-hours call center,” said Kawika Uyehara, deputy manager of the county Department of Water Supply, who acknowledged his department received “a couple of complaints.”

“The thing that kills me is that they tried to represent that they were here,” Lewitzki said. “It just blew me away that we had a major issue with the water and the phone was being answered 6,000 miles away, that jobs were being outsourced 6,000 miles away by our local water company. And they couldn’t give us more than vague information.”

Uyehara apologized and said the department was “looking into how we can better service our customers and respond to the questions more appropriately.”

Tap dance — It was revealed in July that Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water, a premium Hawaii water brand bottled in Southern California, was under investigation by the California Department of Public Health for “issues such as labeling and source water requirements.”

The company’s slogan is “drink healthy, drink sustainably, drink ethically.” Its website touted the water, with a list price of $3.29 a liter, as originating “through both snowmelt and rain on the pristine snowcapped peak of the active Mauna Loa volcano … then filtered through 14,000 feet of porous lava rock before re-emerging at its source, located at the eastern base of the Mauna Loa volcano in a secluded area surrounded by rich and bio-diverse forest preserves.”

True. But what wasn’t mentioned at the time is that those of us in East Hawaii using county water have the same source — the tap.

The Department of Water Supply confirmed Waiakea gets its water from a county source just outside Pahoa that also supplies commercial water haulers. The company fills food-grade containers to be shipped to California for bottling.

Waiakea’s website has since been changed. Added to the above description of the water are the words “… where Waiakea emerges through a community water source.” The bottle also notes a community water source, although it’s in small blue print that blends into the bottle’s greenish-blue hue.

Asked about Waiakea’s bottling of county water, Uyehara of DWS said, “We’ve got to be thankful for our island and the natural blessings that we have because we’ve got some pristine water here.”

A dinghy survival story — On Dec. 2, police issued a wanted bulletin for 52-year-old Derek Liu of Honokaa for violating terms of his release on bail for a burglary charge.

Two days later, Liu became the subject of an extended search-and-rescue mission involving county helicopters plus a Coast Guard helicopter and cutter when his 12-foot inflatable Zodiac boat was found unoccupied a mile offshore of Kohala Estates and his truck and trailer were found abandoned at Kawaihae boat ramp.

On Dec. 15, Liu missed a change-of-plea hearing for the burglary and a separate firearms case.

Liu was arrested Dec. 19 in Keaau and hauled into court the following day.

Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen requested a bail increase to $250,000. He noted Liu was on felony probation, recapped the search effort and added, “Based on the facts presented, it appears the defendant would be a flight risk.”

Liu’s attorney, Francis Alcain, spun a different yarn, saying Liu had “trouble at sea … fell into the ocean and was forced to swim for quite a distance.” He added when Liu made it ashore, he found out about the search and the warrants for his arrest.

“At that point, he panicked and decided to wait until those warrants were served,” Alcain said.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara increased Liu’s bail and told Alcain, “Your version is on the record.”

Hail, Dorothy! — A striptease by a 90-year-old woman? Unusual. A comedic striptease by nonagenarian Dorothy Williams? Inspirational.

In July, Williams, a Hilo resident and longtime president of Pomaikai Senior Center who moonlights as “Yummy the Clown,” appeared on “America’s Got Talent.” She danced to David Rose’s “The Stripper,” shedding her clothes to a skin-tone tank top and red underwear.

Host Nick Cannon shouted encouragement and said, “That’s a star.” In the end, Cannon hit the show’s golden buzzer, confetti rained onto the stage and Williams advanced to the next round. A YouTube video of her performance went viral, racking up 4.3 million views.

A breast-cancer survivor who’s undergone two knee-replacement surgeries, Williams said she sees herself as a “role model for senior citizens.”

“I figured if at 90, I can get up on stage, other seniors would say, ‘OK, well I can do something, too.’”

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