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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 21, 2004

6 named Living Treasures

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Feb. 13 fete

For reservations for the Living Treasures of Hawaii banquet on Feb. 13, call Herbert Hamada at 277-5195.

The Living Treasures Program is about making Hawai'i a better place, and this year's six honorees have made their mark with intensity and verve, said Cecilia Lindo, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i Living Treasures chairwoman.

The program created in 1976 by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i seeks to reward those who work to preserve the cultures of the Islands, said Bishop Chikai Yosemori. This year's honorees made their contribution through music, hula, education or spiritualism, Yosemori said.

The six being honored this year as the 29th Living Treasures of Hawaii are: the Rev. Mitsuo Aoki, Patience Namaka Bacon, Fujio Matsuda, Genoa Keawe, Tau Moe and Edith Kawelohea McKinzie. They will be recognized at a ceremony Feb. 13 at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Since the program began, more than 100 people have been recognized for their work as dancers, artists, clergymen, businessmen and community volunteers.

The Rev. Mitsuo Aoki

Best known for his work in the field of death and dying, the 89-year-old Aoki looks at life with a global view of religion. He has been a Buddhist and a Christian, but it's not religious doctrine that led him to spend decades teaching the meaning of death and dying and bringing peace to those facing the end of their lives.

"He is the most globally thinking spiritual leader alive," Lindo said. "Whenever he gives a talk, he uses Buddhist, Christian and Hindu concepts. He has an open mind."

Aoki is credited with beginning the department of religion at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He is a co-founder of Hospice Hawaii and was a finalist for the Thomas Jefferson Award, which recognizes outstanding Americans for public service.

Patience Elmay Namakauahoaokawena'ula-okalaniikiikikalaninui Wiggin Bacon

Known as Pat Namaka Bacon, she shares her knowledge of Hawaiian culture through the hula kahiko, or ancient hula. The 83-year-old Bacon has said of hula that the "emphasis should be on the poetry of the language, not the dance itself," so "you have to understand the language if you are going to appreciate the poetry."

A hanai child by Mary Kawena Puku'i, the author and scholar, Bacon was born in Waimea, Kaua'i. She is a lecturer in Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo and Kamehameha Schools.

"We needed to recognize Bacon for her work at chronicling the life of her mother (Kawena Puku'i), who we recognized as a Living Treasure in 1977," Lindo said.

Genoa Keawe

The music of Keawe is well-known. At 84, Keawe is often called the first lady of Hawaiian song, famous for her falsetto and her ability to hold high notes for more than two minutes.

"She's a household word," Lindo said. "Everyone knows her. We felt that because she has contributed so much in music that we should acknowledge her."

Keawe got her start in the 1940s as a singer with the Honolulu Rapid Transit musicians. She continues to sing today at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. She has recorded more than 140 songs on the 49th State label. She was named a 2001 Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame honoree and winner of the 2000 National Heritage Fellowship, an awarded presented by the National Endowments for the Arts.

Fujio Matsuda

Matsuda, 79, is a former president of the University of Hawai'i and former director of the state Department of Transportation who some say still hasn't retired. Last year, he led the drive to save the Japanese Cultural Center from being sold, spearheading a drive that raised $9 million.

"He was instrumental in keeping the Japanese culture alive and making people proud of what they have," Lindo said.

During his 10 years as UH president, Matsuda is credited with establishing the statewide community college system, separating the East-West Center from the university and developing the first systemwide strategic plan.

Matsuda is chairman of the board of the Pacific International Center for High-Tech Research, a nonprofit organization involved in developing photovoltaic and hybrid systems in Fiji.

Edith Kawelohea McKinzie

McKinzie is an expert in genealogy and Hawaiiana and a leader in education. The 78-year-old Pearl City resident is chairwoman of the University of Hawai'i's Committee for the Preservation and Study of Hawaiian Language, Art and Culture. McKinzie also is the director of Bishop Museum's Hawaiian Language Newspaper Indexing and Cataloging Project.

She is being recognized for ensuring that "traditional Hawaiian values and achievements are kept alive so they may be shared and passed on to the coming generations," said Lindo.

McKinzie has received the Pulama Award from the Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Society; the Order of Distinction from the state Council on Hawaiian Heritage; and the Kukui Malamalama from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

"She has done a lot of research and study on culture," Lindo said. "People use her research to learn about yesterday's Hawai'i today."

Tau Moe

A steel string guitar master, recording artist, and film and television actor, Moe, 95, has spent most of his life traveling the world and sharing Hawaiian music. He is believed to be the world's oldest living steel guitar player; he began his playing career in 1924.

During World War II he helped smuggle Jewish musicians out of Nazi-occupied Germany before the beginning of the Holocaust. Last year he was recognized for his lifetime contribution to Hawaiian music by the Legislature, the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association, Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Jeremy Harris.

"He was a real ambassador of good will," Lindo said. "He is a loving, giving human being."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831.