Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, August 1, 2004

Thelma S. Bugbee, songwriter, dead at 93

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Thelma Kaualulehuao'aiku Sproat Bugbee, a songwriter as well as a retired teacher and social worker, died Monday in Honolulu. She was 93.

"Auntie Thelma" — who co-wrote songs with her close friend, the late "Auntie" Irmgard 'Aluli — also was one of the few remaining "manaleo," or native speakers of Hawaiian. Her love of her culture spotlighted her in oral histories and as an interview subject in documentaries. One was a 1996 film on the overthrow of the monarchy; the following year, she appeared in a documentary on the "paniolo" cowboys of the Big Island, said her daughter, L. Pua'ala Fisher.

Her career spanned positions as head of psychiatric social work at what was then the territorial mental hospital to teaching at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School, where members of the musical Pahinui clan were among her students. She pioneered an early form of what became the Hawaiian studies program to reach students culturally estranged from Western teaching methods, Fisher said.

She was active with the fledgling Democratic Party 50 years ago and as a legislative liaison for the teachers' union.

She also was a lifelong friend of 'Aluli who, only months before she died in October 2001, wrote her last composition in Bugbee's honor. 'Aluli spent many of her final evenings playing cards with her "best friend," said 'Aluli's daughter, Mihana Souza. The two co-wrote "Hana No E Ka 'Oi" and "Ka Waimea Swing."

Bugbee was a member of 'Ahahui 'Olelo Hawai'i, the Hawaiian language professional organization, said Hailama Farden, the group's president.

"Every death of a native speaker is a serious blow," Farden said.

Souza said she'll cherish memories of a woman so close to her own mother.

"She and my mother would practice talking their Hawaiian," Souza said. "She was just the dearest. She's in heaven with my mother, playing cards."

She is also survived by her daughter, Grace Lehua Bacon; son, Alvin Dewain Kamaikalani Bugbee; brothers, William K. Sproat and Emanual N. Sproat; five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.