Remembering Aunty Genoa

Aunty Genoa Keawe
Aunty Genoa Keawe
Eric Keawe
Eric Keawe
O'Brian Eselu
O'Brian Eselu
Momi Kahawai
Momi Kahawai

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Everyone knew her as "Aunty Genoa Keawe."  At 89-years-old, Aunty Genoa passed away in her sleep. Genoa Leilani Keawe fought a long battle with cancer, and heart problems. Her family, Hawaii's music community, and her fans mourn her death. She was at her home in Papakolea when she passed away Monday morning.

Those closest to her say she lived a full life, and was very honored with the blessings of her family. She had 12 children, 40 grandchildren and 98 great-grandchildren.

Genoa's family, including her three living sons, talked about their mom in an emotional gathering.

They shared that when they checked her into the hospital, she scolded them for not bringing her ukulele. They had it there the next day, and she played it every day until she died.

In 1918, she was born in a stable and grew up singing in the Mormon choir in Laie.

Her unforgettable falsetto would take her far.

She started out playing local clubs during World War II and got a following in radio.

Her band played at the Waikiki Beach Marriott for the past 14 years.

"The strength of the lady just kept her going on and singing. She would even sing for the doctors and nurses," said her son Eric Keawe.

Her last performance was in January. and last Thursday when she was released from the hospital, she watched her band with her granddaughter filling in for her.

In her own words, less than a year ago she put family first.

"I must remind all mothers, all parents, love their children. Be close to them because they need you," said Aunty Genoa Keawe in an interview with KHNL News 8 last year.

And she loved performing.

"Because that is what they all come for, to be happy," said Aunty Genoa.  "I keep singing and singing the songs they want and so happy, feel so good."

Many marvelled she sang until the end.

"I visited her last night and she still could sing, grab ukulele, start playing again. She was always a teacher and taught me a verse I did not know," said family friend O'Brien Eselu.

"She is in a safe place," said fellow performer Momi Kahawai.  "She is with the Lord and she says she has a gift from God."

The family is planning a public memorial.