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Maui Olympian’s memorabilia still missing

Olympic jacket, athletic certificates stolen from weightlifter

Vernon Patao

Tools and fishing gear stolen from two-time Maui Olympian Vernon Patao have been returned anonymously, though his Olympic mementos are still missing — the second time in his career that someone has taken memorabilia of sentimental value.

On June 8, Patao, a U.S. champion weightlifter who competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, found out that his Olympic memorabilia and his athletic certificates, along with other items that included fishing gear and tools, were stolen from a friend’s home in Wailuku where Patao had been storing them.

After the “shock of people taking my stuff” wore off, Patao wrote off the incident as a loss, he told The Maui News on Monday.

“In the end it’s material stuff,” he said, adding that “I really don’t want it to be about me.”

But news of the theft took off, and before Patao knew it, friends and family had taken to social media and told others of the incident, including the Maui Police Department.

Maui resident Vernon Patao (third from left) is pictured in this Olympic weightlifting team photo from the 1996 Olympics. A bunch of Patao’s Olympic memorabilia was stolen from his friend’s home last week where Patao was storing the items. Maui Lost & Found Facebook page photo

His sister, Vanessa, posted photos of the missing items, which included a jacket her brother wore in the 1992 Olympics and pictures of him with his weightlifting team, in the Facebook group “Maui Lost & Found.” She asked that the “irreplaceable Olympic memorabilia” be returned, “no questions asked.”

As word got around last week, Patao said that his tools and fishing gear were returned anonymously, but not his athletic memorabilia. He also received apologies via text and social media messages from people he said had taken his items. He declined to provide their names and said he did not know them personally.

“I’m very, very, very grateful for the support of the community, especially my friends and family and the Maui Police Department for taking quick action,” said Patao, who’s also a Maui County firefighter.

Maui police said Monday afternoon that the investigation is ongoing. Those with information regarding the incident should call the Maui Police Department’s nonemergency number at (808) 244-6400.

It’s not the first time someone has stolen from Patao. In 1996, when he came back from the Olympic games in Atlanta, someone stole his Olympic rings and other items from a home he was renting in Wailuku. Those were never recovered.

A jacket worn by Vernon Patao in the 1992 Olympics was among the memorabilia stolen from Patao’s friend’s home where Patao had been storing some of his items. Maui Lost & Found Facebook page photo

But what hurts the most is not having his photos, memorabilia and certificates that the community and the late Dr. Masayoshi Nelson Yogi help Patao obtain. Yogi was a dentist by trade but loved to lift weights, and it was in his Kahului garage where Patao learned how to lift.

Patao said the items he lost were going to be used to perpetuate the legacy of “Dr. Yogi.”

“He helped me build a foundation where my life is pretty damn good,” Patao said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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