Hula master "Uncle George" Naope remembered on Big Island - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hula master "Uncle George" Naope remembered on Big Island

Rick San Nicolas Rick San Nicolas
Etua Lopes Etua Lopes
Waipa Waipa

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Friday night in Hilo, it's a celebration of life for a man considered by some as the last of the hula masters.

George Naope died of cancer on October 26, but lives on in the hearts and hula of his friends and students.

He was a performer, a teacher, and a practioner and keeper of Hawaiian culture.

George Naope was many things.

And in 81 years of life he touched many people.

That's why the turn-out Friday night was so impressive.

Friends, family, top entertainers and countless students came to honor the man everyone called "Uncle George."

"He's been a wonderful person to so many people in hula, and to me especially,
 said Rick San Nicolas of Modesto, California. "He took me under his wing. I just enjoyed all of his sharing of aloha in hula and all of about Hawaii. He's just a man that people need to pay tribute to.

"He always said, ‘I don't want you to dance like me, but I want you to dance like you, but keep the traditions as I teach you,'" said kumu hula and a former Naope student, Etua Lopes.

"I knew Uncle George when he used to sing," said Waipa of Kona Puna Bikers. "He was famous. He wrote some of the most beautiful music, you know what I mean.  And he was the greatest guy to go out with and have a drink with.  Uncle George was something.

Naope was a co-founder of the Merrie Monarch Festival. He loved to travel, and while on the road helped organize hula competitions and dance schools.

His trademark was his colorful style. He was always decked out in bright shirts, hats and wearing lei.

Big Island mayor Billy Kenoi spoke at Friday night's event. he read a proclamation declaring Saturday Uncle George Naope Day.

Also on Saturday from 9 o'clock a.m. until 5 in the afternoon, people will gather at the Civic Auditorium to celebrate Naope's life and accomplishments.

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