HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Theater figure and youthful performer Joy Abbott, who was often referred to as ‘The Shirley Temple of Hawaii,' has died. She was 88.
Abbott was born and raised in Wahiawa. She was the wife of late Broadway legend George Abbott.
The Miami Herald reports she died over the weekend at her home on Miami Beach’s Sunset Island II. She was battling bladder cancer, and had been diagnosed just six months earlier.
Born Joy Valderrama, she grew up in the spotlight. She was known for her talent as she would often sing and dance for excited audiences.
Abbott previously said she was given the name Joy by her father because when she was born, instead of crying, she came out smiling.
In a 2013 interview with Leslie Wilcox for Long Story Short on PBS, she recalled learning the basics of tap dancing by the age of six. She said she would perform in a show at King Theater, where she earned the name, the “Shirley Temple of Hawaii.”
She went on to graduate from Punahou School where she was a highly acclaimed athlete. In tennis, she won the title of Hawaiian Junior Champion in singles and doubles in 1948.
She furthered her education at Philadelphia’s Temple University where she went on to earn a spot in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame for her incredible undefeated tennis record. She was team captain and won the Eastern Intercollegiate Singles Championship in 1951, along with many other titles.
She would go on to continue her dance career as a featured dancer at the Hawaiian Cottage in Cherry Hill, N.J.
In her later years, she focused on singing and earned a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in 2008 for jazz album of the year with Pianist Betty Loo Taylor.
Her and her husband’s legacy will live on as Temple University previously dedicated the “George and Joy Abbott Center for Musical Theater.”
On March 14, the Temple Performing Arts Center will hold a concert titled, “BY GEORGE, IT’S JOY!” It will serve as a tribute to both Joy and George Abbott’s life and music. For details on the event, click here.