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Hula community mourns death of beloved kumu hula Johnny Lum Ho

Family and friends shocked by sudden death of Hilo icon
The hula community is mourning the passing of Hawaii’s beloved Kumu Hula and Hilo icon Johnny Lum Ho.
Published: Apr. 3, 2022 at 9:28 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 7:22 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The hula community is mourning the death of Hawaii’s beloved kumu hula and Hilo icon Johnny Lum Ho.

He was in his 80s. The loss is devastating for his ohana and the students he mentored and loved, including musician and kumu hula Napua Greig.

Greig said dancing in Uncle Johnny’s Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua on Hawaii Island was an honor and a privilege.

“He was just larger than life to me. I would look forward to hearing him sing in practices and his voice I guess would light a fire in my spirit to just dance,” said Greig, who has a halau on Maui.

Greig went to dance with Uncle Johnny when she was 18 and has known him for 30 years. She is proud to be known as his “‘uku girl.”

“The chant he wrote for my Miss Aloha Hula presentation was about the different ways our kupuna removed ‘ukus from the hair,” she explained. “It was pretty hilarious.”

Uncle Johnny was known for his creative choreography and wrote his own mele, songs and chants. That innovation earned his halau numerous awards and made them a fan favorite at the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Greig said Uncle Johnny had been active with his halau, so his death came as a shock.

“There will be a great loss not just in Merrie Monarch but in our hula community and hula worldwide. Uncle Johnny has students worldwide especially in Japan,” she said.

He was also a respected recording artist, composer and musician, and mentored many dancers over the decades. Greig adds that he was an excellent cook who loved to cook for his students.

In a statement, Kumu Johnny’s family said, “He left this earthly realm – surrounded by family and friends – to join his heavenly Father and ʻohana who left before him. While we grieve his passing, he lived a full, blessed life that impacted generations in ways that we know his legacy will live on. We ask that you allow the family and halau time and privacy to process and mourn. Aloha.”

U.S. Congressman Kai Kahele also shared a statement, saying “Johnny loved to tell stories of Hawaii, its people and places through his unique style of song and dance. He will be remembered for his commitment to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture, in particular, his passion for hula and unsurpassed leadership as a respected kumu.”

Greig said she’s comforted that Uncle Johnny was a man of faith who “loved the Lord.”

His legacy, she said, is his halau and music, and his spirit will live on in his students who continue to share his love for hula with future generations.

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