Don Ho may or may not have been Hawai'i's greatest entertainer.
But there was no doubt that he was one of its most beloved.
When he died yesterday of heart failure at age 76, those who knew him best remembered his genuine warmth the most.
Whether a lifelong friend,
a fledgling singer looking for a break, or a grandmother from Peoria with an exotic Island dream and an Instamatic camera, you mattered to Ho.
"I don't think he ever realized how important he was to Hawai'i ... how big he was," said one old friend. "I mean, he knew he had talent. But the other stuff ... he didn't care about all the other stuff.
"With Don, it's 'Ain't no big thing.' But he was big time."
He was often called Mr. Waikiki because he was the most popular draw there for decades. But Ho told Advertiser columnist Bob Krauss that the secret of his survival was to do what he believed in, despite pressures to do something different.
"Everybody has to have an identity, your own original thing," he explained. "Our thing was the way you sit around the garage on a weekend; play music, joke around. We just took it to the showroom."