Maui Mourns the Loss of Beloved Uncle Richard Ho‘opi‘i

March 3, 2018, 7:50 AM HST · Updated March 3, 8:06 AM
Wendy Osher · 49 Comments
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Beloved Maui musician, Uncle Richard Hoʻopiʻi passed away early this morning at his home in Kahakuloa, family members have confirmed.

In a telephone interview with Uncle Richard’s daughter Rozanne, she said her father passed a little after 12 a.m., just 12 days shy of his 77th birthday on March 15th.

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    In a moving tribute this morning, Alakaʻi Paleka with Maui’s Hawaiian music station, KPOA 93.5 FM delivered a message to listeners saying:

    “It is with heavy heart that KPOA would like to extend our aloha to the family of Uncle Richard Hoʻopiʻi who passed this morning.  I just talked to Ululani, his lovely wife, and she wants KPOA to let the world know that we have lost a gentle soul.  (He is) one of the greatest human beings I have ever had the privilege of sharing the stage with; a man who always smiled when he sang.  Much love and aloha go out to his family at this time.  And we just want to say mahalo for sharing his talents and his time with Maui.  He did so much for us, and he will be definitely missed.  One of the greatest voices of all time.” 

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    The message was followed by a broadcast of Uncle Richard singing ʻOhuʻohu Kahakuloa, a song about the remote village of Kahakuloa where Hoʻopiʻi was born and raised.  In the weeks leading up to his passing, Uncle Richard asked that he return home so that he could be with his family in Kahakuloa, a shoreline community on the north coast.

    Family members tell us Uncle Richard was admitted to the hospital in late November of 2017 for pneumonia, and spent two months in recovery.  Family members say he was scheduled to have a heart valve replacement, but when he caught pneumonia he wasn’t able to do the operation.

    Uncle Richard had a list of accolades and awards over his long career in Hawaiian music.

    At the 2015 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, Hoʻopiʻi was honored with the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.

    He also earned three Grammy awards for his work on compilation slack key albums.

    Uncle Richard and his late brother Solomon (performing for years as the popular Maui duo, the Ho‘opi‘i Brothers) received a Folk Heritage Fellowship in 1996 from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of their cultural legacy.  They also were named the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards Group of the Year in 1997.

    Uncle Richard has worked for years to preserve the Hawaiian art of leo ki`eki`e, or falsetto singing, launching the Richard Ho’opi’i Falsetto Contest in 2002.  In 2009, then Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares declared September 25, 2009, Richard Ho‘opi‘i Day in the County of Maui during a presentation at his 8th annual Falsetto Contest event.

    The contest has become a Maui music tradition, showcasing Maui’s finest amateur male falsetto performers as they carried Uncle Richard’s hopes for the continuation of Hawaiian music for the past 16 years.

    Uncle Richard’s late son, Ramsey Ho’opi’i was the winner of the first year of the contest in 2002; and his son Kai Ho’opi’i was named the 2004 champion.

    Uncle Richard is survived by his wife Priscilla Ululani Ho’opi’i; his sons Chico Ka’anohi, Richard Jr., Ruben Kai Ho’opi’i; and daughters Regina Ho’opi’i and Rozanne Ho’opi’i. He was predeceased by his son Ramzey Ho’opi’i.  Uncle Richard also had 20 grand children and four great grand children.

     

    Richard Ho‘opi‘i at the 2016 Ukulele Festival. PC: Aubrey Hord

    Uncle Richard Ho`opi`i received a 1996 National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk Heritage Fellowship for preservation of the Hawaiian art of leo ki`eki`e, or falsetto singing. PC: 11th Annual Maui ‘Ukulele Festival, Richard Hoʻopiʻi, credit Aubrey Hord Photography.

    15th Richard Hoʻopiʻi Leo Kiʻekiʻe Falsetto Contest. PC: Daryl Fujiwara

    Falsetto Legend Richard Ho‘opi‘i (left). Courtesy photo.

    Masters of Hawaiian Music: George Kahumoku Jr., Richard Ho‘opi‘i and Kawika
    Kahiapo at Napili. MHM photo.

    Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Richard Ho‘opi‘i (seated) and sons Rick (center) and Kai (right) Ho‘opi‘i, with George Kahumoku Jr. (left). Courtesy photo.

    Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i and 2011 Contest winner Ezra Kaui Krueger. Courtesy Photo.

    Richard Ho’opi’i. File photo by Wendy Osher.

    Wendy Osher
    Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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