On June 4, 1943, members and directors of the OCC were stunned by the news that Macfarlane, a Territorial legislator and businessman, had passed away in Oakland, California while on a business trip.
Walter “Mac” as he was known by his many friends was president of the Outrigger Canoe Club at the time of his death. He had been elected in 1939 when the Club was facing a number of problems: the treasury was practically non-existent, the lease on the grounds owned by the Queen Emma Estate where the Club was located was about to expire; and the buildings were obsolete and unfit to continue in, and needed rebuilding.
Walter “Mac” had an indomitable and courageous outlook with a determination and an optimism that a plan to finance new buildings and build a new club on modern lines could be carried out.
A committee was formed with the directors and other members and a formula for the successful continuation of the Club was blueprinted. Many members dropped out due to the financial uncertainty. Walter “Mac” stayed on and with a small group of supporters devoted every ounce of his energy and most of his time, finally succeeding in selling bonds and raising the capital to build the Club at Waikiki Beach. The new club finally opened in 1941 and was well on its way to success when he passed away.
Walter “Mac” was born in Honolulu on September 5, 1907, the son of a kama`aina family. He was the grandson of James and Abigail Campbell, founder of the Campbell Estate, and the son of entrepreneur and polo player F. Walter Macfarlane Sr. and composer Alice Kamokila Campbell. He was the nephew of royal descendent Abigail Kawananakoa.
He attended Punahou School where he was prominent in athletics; later prep school at Palo Alto, graduating from the University of Hawaii where he was again active in athletics. He was vice-president of the advertising firm, Bowman, Holst, Macfarlane and Richardson, and a member of the Territorial Legislature being elected to terms in 1935, 1937 and 1939. He took particular interest in those problems concerning Hawaiians and served on committees of the Legislature whose object was to improve their condition.
At the time of Walter “Mac’s” death the Club was planning a Fourth of July outrigger canoe race and the suggestion was made that these races be dedicated to the memory of Walter “Mac”. The idea was adopted by the Outrigger Canoe Club Board of Directors and the Walter J. Macfarlane Memorial Canoe Regatta has been held each year since 1943.
In commemoration of the life and activities of Walter, the Matson Navigation Company and the Hawaiian Hotels donated a magnificent trophy, a great silver bowl, as a perpetual trophy to be competed for by the Senior Men’s Six Paddle racing crews. This trophy is still awarded each year to the victorious Senior Men.
The Macfarlane family has always played a prominent role in the Macfarlane Regatta. For many years his mother Alice Kamokila Campbell was on hand to award the perpetual trophies and share a champagne toast with the winners of the senior men’s and women’s races. After Mrs. Macfarlane’s death, Walter’s sister Muriel Macfarlane Flanders took over the honors. Mrs. Flanders also donated several perpetual trophies for the races.
Mrs. Flanders’ three daughters and their children continue to participate in the running of the regatta and the trophy ceremony each year. Walter Mac’s grandnephew, Walter Guild, crafted the Boys 18 perpetual trophy in honor of his grandmother Muriel Flanders.
The Walter J. Macfarlane Memorial Canoe Regatta is the longest running outrigger canoe race in the world.