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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 5, 2004

Thaddius Wilson, honored kumu hula, dead at 52

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Thaddius Wilson, a kumu hula whose work was rewarded with many competitive honors and friends in the entertainment business, died Tuesday at his home in Waiehu. He was 52.

Wilson has staged shows at Paradise Cove and other venues but was best known for his collaboration with fellow kumu O'Brian Eselu, who said the friendship began when they were youths in Halawa housing. The two led the halau Na Wai 'Eha 'O Puna, based in 'Aiea and Wai'anae through the 1980s and '90s, winning multiple awards at the prestigious Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition.

In 2000 Eselu renamed the school Ke Kai O Kahiki following Wilson's retirement and move to Maui, where he was founding a new halau with a former student, Robert Aguiar.

One of their students, Tracie Farias Lopes, competed twice for the Merrie Monarch's top solo title, Miss Aloha Hula, and won in 1994.

"He was the backbone of the group in support," Lopes said. "It was in the '92 year, the year I didn't win, that he gave me the most encouraging words ever.

"Whenever we were down, he was often the one to say, 'Hey, come on!' " she said.

Eselu and Lopes agreed that Wilson was often called the "second eye" who would catch details Eselu missed.

The younger of the two men, Eselu said he learned a great deal from Wilson.

"He was my mentor, not only in hula but in my growing up in the world of entertainment," said Eselu, who went on to build a recording career. "He once told me, 'Here's my advice to you: Look, listen, keep your mouth shut.'

"So I would look and listen and sometimes ask questions, and he'd say, 'What did I tell you?' " Eselu said with a laugh.

He is survived by two brothers, Lani and Adonis Wilson, Aguiar said.

Funeral arrangements, by Ballard Family Mortuary, are pending, but plans are for a service at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 13 at Waiola Church, Lahaina.

Reach Vicki Viotti at 525-8053 or at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com.