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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 16, 2008

John Lake's Hawaiiana teachings carried on

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

John Lake

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Called on frequently for dedications, blessings and ceremonies that called for traditional Hawaiian protocol, revered kumu hula John Keola Lake knew there was a need for more masters of the Hawaiian arts.

A few weeks ago, he wrote extensive instructions for his uniki, former students who had graduated to practitioners.

"He certainly anticipated the need for Hawaiian protocol and for the need for someone to perform the different ceremonies," said Sam Gon III, a member of Lake's 2003 uniki class. "When he would teach the Hawaiian arts, it was always with this sense in which he anticipated we would be needing to practice them and meet the services in a manner that did credit to this training."

Due to this foresight, when Lake died Wednesday at age 70, he left behind others who would carry on his efforts to perpetuate the culture.

"Each of us has the responsibility to continue learning and to continually pass on what we learn," Gon said.

Lake spent decades teaching Hawaiian language, chant and religious practices. In 1965, he established the first Hawaiian language class in the state. Four years later, he helped found 'Ahahui 'Olelo Hawai'i, the state association for Hawaiian language.

In addition to teaching in the community and in his Halau Mele, Lake spent more than three decades teaching at Saint Louis School. After his retirement, he served as kumu-in-residence at Chaminade University.

Jon Osorio, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i, said Lake had been part of the center from the beginning, helping design the protocol to name the building Kamakakuokalani in honor of revered kupuna Gladys Brandt. Once the building was open, Lake used it to teach dance and chant in the evenings.

"He would teach anyone and just really believed the knowledge and traditions that he mastered should be shared with others," Osorio said. "He was completely unselfish and unstinting in that sharing."

One of this students, Mehana Hind, said she took her first chant and oli classes with Lake and maintained a relationship with him over the years.

"I think that one of the things he definitely instilled in us is that what we learn from him we should go out and teach to others, that it wasn't for us only," said Hind, a traditional Hawaiian practitioner.

Lake, who was called on to direct protocol for the 1997 Hokule'a visit to Rapa Nui, perform the official chant for the beautification of Father Damien and act as host for the Dalai Lama during his 1994 visit, was a particularly public kumu hula.

"He was one of the very few of us who was not only ready, willing and able, but also skilled and able to take the challenge," Hind said. "Now that he's not here amongst his former students ... I think we have a common commitment to share what he taught us."

Kumu hula Leina'ala Heine Kalama, who studied under the same kumu with Lake, said that the public ceremonies were only part of his contribution to traditional Hawaiian practices.

"The main thing was perpetuating the culture that he loved so much. He lived by it and he shared it with young people," she said. "His vision was to bring together a core of people who would be able to stand together on their own two feet and to be able to do things that further the Hawaiian culture."

Lake passed on his knowledge to his children, who are among his many survivors: his wife Barbara; sisters Joan Kealohalani Lake-Farren and Miriam Keawepoepoe; his sons John Maximin Kekoaaliiokahekili and Joshua Matthew Iwikauikauakukuiaikaawakea; his daughter Kumu Hula Naomi Katherine Kahakuhaupiokamakani Sissy Lake-Farm; his grandchildren Puameiti Maliakekiheiokaheihei Malie Farm and Kekaulaiwi Elama Kaelemakule Farm; and hanai son John Kaponoaikaulikeikeao Molitau.

Services will be held May 31 at the Mystical Rose Chapel on the Saint Louis School and Chaminade University campus, with viewing on May 30.

For more information, visit www.johnkeolalake.org.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.