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‘He meant so much to us’: Beloved Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho honored in Hilo

Hawaiiʻs hula community came together to say a fond ‘aloha’ Saturday to a legendary kumu whose lifeʻs work touched thousands of people across the islands.
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 3:34 PM HST|Updated: May. 7, 2022 at 5:47 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiiʻs hula community came together to say a fond “aloha” Saturday to a legendary kumu whose life’s work touched thousands of people across the islands and beyond.

Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho was honored and laid to rest in Hilo.

His celebration of life brought together generations of Hālau O Ka Ua Kanilehua dancers, many of whom spent their entire lives learning from Uncle Johnny. Together, they danced one final mele for their kumu.

”He was special. He was just so special. He meant so much to us in the halau,” long-time dancer Hanakahi Perreira said.

They remember Uncle Johnny as a soft-spoken, shy man to many, but also as someone who had a playful personality.

“Uncle Johnny was more like a big brother than he was an uncle because uncles kind of mentor you. Uncle Johnny was a prankster. They didn’t have the word prankster back in the day, he was one troublemaker,” his niece Pua Chamberlin joked.

Many remembered the impact he had on their lives.

“His haumana from across Hawaii and even Japan shared in memories of the man who helped shape them as hula dancers — and as people.”

His celebration of life brought together generations of Hālau O Ka Ua Kanilehua dancers
His celebration of life brought together generations of Hālau O Ka Ua Kanilehua dancers(Hawaii News Now)

“Definitely faith and love for the Lord. He was very faithful — I remember growing up, every time we had a show, or a performance or a competition, we started with Pule. He really grounded us in that, that was very important to him,” Perreira said.

“The first time we visited Uncle Johnny’s studio — so surprised. It’s not a hula studio, it’s like big family,” Japan halau member Kayoko Hendy said.

Kumu Johnny died on April 3 at the age of 81. On display were moments of his life.

He was a retired licensed practical nurse for the Hilo Medical Center. He was also a rock star in the hula world, racking up awards for Merrie Monarch performances over the decades.

But at the very core, loved ones say he was a simple and faithful man who found joy in little things.

“I always will remember his laugh. He had a boisterous laugh when things were funny,” Chamberlin said. “His faith in the Lord… He always told us look up when you’re feeling down.”

Perreira added, “I like to think he just had a magic about him, that was just God-given talent and one of his many gifts that he was just born with… Weʻre gonna miss him immensely but we know he’s with us and we carry everything that he taught us in our hearts.”

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