HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A beloved kumu hula died Friday after a six-month battle with stage 4 cancer.
Kumu hula Marlene Hokulani DeRego of Halau Hula 'O Hokulani was 57 years old. Affectionately known as "Aunty Hoku," she's credited with teaching hula to thousands of students in Hawaii, the Mainland, Japan, New Zealand and across Europe.
Aunty Hoku's achievements as a kumu hula spanned more than 30 years having participated in many prestigious hula competitions, including the Merrie Monarch Festival and Keiki Hula.
Aunty Hoku and her husband, Larry, founded the Hula 'Oni E. Hula Festival in 1991. Over the years, the festival has been supported by the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and has also included hundreds of halau from all over. The festival was also held in Japan.
She is survived by her husband, Larry; Leinani and Sovea DeRego Lauaki; Kehaulani and Kanoa Kawai; Blossom and Ed Fabregas; Kim and Nelson Nakamitsu; Dustin DeRego; Larry Boy DeRego; 23 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; sisters Charlene Diamond, Darlene Butts, Momi Cruz-Losano; brothers Panihau Cruz, Greg Cruz; and dozens of hanai sisters, brothers, daughters and sons.
Her halau will continue under the leadership of daughters Leinani DeRego Lauaki, Kehaulani Kawai, and Leonani Nahooikaika.
Funeral services are pending.