Island entertainer Iva Kinimaka dies at 76

Island entertainer Iva Kinimaka dies at 76
Published: Aug. 3, 2016 at 9:34 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 4, 2016 at 1:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Iva Kinimaka graduated from Kailua High School in 1958. By the 1960s, he was headlining his own show in Waikiki's International Market Place.

"He was funny. He had a nice voice. He really knew how to work the crowd. We all knew that," said entertainer Melveen Leed.

Kinimaka, best known for his composition "He Aloha Mele," died Tuesday at 76.

Wherever he went, he'd be called on to sing to his signature tune, which was written for his daughter.

"The next thing that would follow is that he'd ask me to come up and dance," daughter Chamonix Mele Kinimaka said. "I used to get so nervous when I was a little girl.  But I really grew to cherish that. It was just a really special thing that we had."

Kinimaka said her dad had music wired into his soul.

"There was always music in the house, baby grand in my living room, the ukulele," she said.

In his musical heyday, Kinimaka played alongside Don Ho, Dick Jensen, Loyal Garner, Leed and other big-name entertainers.

Leed says his showmanship never overshadowed his sincerity. "He had a good heart. Really good heart," she said.

In the 1970s, Kinimaka expanded his repertoire, tapping into his other talent.

"He loved cooking," his daughter said.

The "singing chef" opened a lunch wagon, a catering business, and a restaurant. Iva's Hawaiian Grinds lunch truck was a fixture on Sand Island Access Road up until last month.

"Last month, he was still cooking and lifting the big coolers into his van and going to set up his lunchwagon," his daughter said.

Kinimaka's cancer came on fast. He died Tuesday in the hospital.

"We stayed friends for all these years. He was so happy when he saw me walk in that hospital room because we hadn't seen each other for a while. We had a lot to catch up on but not enough time," Leed said.

His daughter added, "The generous spirit that he was, perhaps that's what we've lost. But his music, I think, will keep his spirit alive."

Kinimaka is survived by one son and three daughters. A memorial service will be held on August 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Elks Lodge Waikiki at 2933 Kalakaua Avenue.

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