Michael “Kalai” Balutski is a 1983 Damien Memorial graduate, and continues to meet up with his fellow alumni from one of the more active classes to ever come out of Damien. Kalai said recently that he and more than a few of his fellow ’83 classmates gets together several times annually, capping off each year with a family luncheon at Christmas time. Kalai had no problems dropping names.
Some of the ’83 Alumni who participates regularly in these gatherings include Brad Buffett, Rodney Kaanoi, Joey Aukai, Hayden Schmidt, John Lee, Paul Vargas, Arthur Takabayashi, Mark Flores, Edgar Ibarra, Kyle Nishimura, Kimo Ahnew, Shawn Coen, Dudley Munar, Darryl Iseri, and Armando Santana.
Kalai reminisced that Rodney Kaanoi ‘83, Mark Flores ‘83 and Hollinger Abbey ‘83 have had sons graduate from Damien, and confirmed that Brad Buffett ‘83 is brother to Kim Buffett, Crimestoppers’ HPD Sgt., who currently has two children enrolled at Damien: Skyler Capllonch ’16 and Shelby Capllonch ’19.
Kalai conveyed that he understood the need and the benefits of Damien going co-ed, but stated, “We have life long friends because of our bonding in high school; there were no girls to show off to or impress. You could be yourself and we were.”
Back in the day, many of the aforementioned ‘83 graduates hung out with each other even when school was not in session. "I will always remember the weekends and summers we all spent during our high school years,” beamed Kalai. “There was something fun always going on. We were very Kolohe.”
When asked jokingly if he was Filipino-Polish, Kalai explained, “I am Hawaiian-Polish on my dad’s side; the “Balut” in Balutski is pronounced Ballot according to the (Polish) Aunties but we always pronounced it like the Filipino egg.”
While at Damien, Kalai participated in Football and Track & Field, and fondly remembers his teacher Rufus Roberts and teacher/football coach Peter Hata.
Kalai said the biggest lessons he learned while at Damien were to be disciplined and to be accountable for one’s actions. Kalai said that these lessons helped him at the time in his life when he needed them most.
“Damien is a big part of who I am today,” said Kalai. “My dad was a disciplinarian, and always pushed us with responsibilities. During my tenure at Damien, I was responsible to pay half of my tuition by working in the summer. When you’re making such sacrifices like paying tuition, you don’t take your schooling for granted.”
After graduating from Damien, Kalai enrolled at Solano Community College in Fairfield, California. Kalai played football at Solano with Brad Buffet, Rodney Kaanoi, and 1982 Damien graduate Raphael Tovio, but after one season Kalai did not return. Kalai would get married a year later and soon after two daughters followed: Brandi, now 31, and Brittney, 27, who now has an eight-year-old son Kae’o.
Kalai had applied his life lessons acquired at Damien, and from his father. He did not take things for granted, and worked hard through the years and today is a self-employed Licensed General Contractor. “When I am not building for someone else, I am usually working on my own personal projects.”
Kalai’s current and second wife, Germaine, is from Kahaluu and is a Delta Airlines Flight Attendant who is currently based out of Honolulu, but still picks up trips to work out of Salt Lake City, Utah where she was based for many years. Kalai still owns two homes in Utah, one with a purported state-of-the-art home theater, and he flies back there every other month to visit and host family and friends.
This June, Kalai will be hosting 40+ football players who will be participating in the Polynesian Football Camp held annually in Utah by Damien graduates, Ana Tuiasosopo ’81 and Tuata Mauga ’81. Kalai will be hosting dinners, “the notable thing this year is that [Tuiasosopo] has 15 boys from Damien” who will be participating in this year’s camp.
Kalai’s support for Damien is ceaseless and his list of Damien graduates he socializes with is endless. Damien Memorial School fundraiser was held at Tropics Bar and hosted by Brad Buffet ‘83 recently on April 16th and yes, Kalai participated…and yes, he probably knew everyone there…and yes, he is still Kolohe.