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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 17, 2010

Merrie Monarch's Auntie Dottie honored with pomp, pageantry


By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Baron Ching, of Makiki, brings lei to Auntie Dottie Thompson's funeral at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hilo today. He was among people who stood in long lines to pay their respects to the longtime matriarch of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

'Ohana gather together for the last viewing before the Mass at Auntie Dottie Thompson's funeral this morning.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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HILO, Hawai'i Auntie Dottie Thompson was not a government official, not a kumu hula, not even ethnically Hawaiian.

But today she was honored with all the pageantry the Hawaiian community possesses as her more than 40 years of service to the Merrie Monarch Festival was celebrated. Starting in the early hours of the morning, the queue snaked down the steps of her home church, St. Joseph's Catholic Church in downtown Hilo, as friends, family, kumu hula and the elite of the Hawaiian entertainment community came to pay their respects.

Members of the Hale O Na Ali'I O Hawaii civic organization, of which she was an honorary member, took turns standing at the head and foot of her coffin, holding feather kahili (standards) over her.

"We are standing guard over her," Ku'ulei Hughes-Okada, iku ha'i (director) of the organization. "She deserves this respect."

Standing in line early in the morning was kumu kula Johnnty Lum Ho, characterized as the "bad boy" of Merrie Monarch hula, often presenting dances that stretch the edges of tradition and delight the audience while flummoxing the judges. "My heart is heavy for the family," he said. What did Auntie Dottie mean to hula, he is asked. Long pause. "Everything. She brought it to life.."

Kimo Kahoano, emcee of the Merrie Monarch TV show, said he will miss her astute ability to sum up a person or situation and then deal directly and fairly with them. "She was always frank and honest and fair," he said. "I'm going to miss her."

Among Thompson's skills was the ability to bring people from many different backgrounds together to work on the Merrie Monarch. The lineup outside her funeral bore this out: Koa Puna Harley-Davidson bikers, who have long done the security for Merrie Monarch, stood next to elegantly holoku'd aunties with bouquets of flowers in their hair, everyday folks rubbed shoulders with award-winning entertainers and there were more Sig Zane outfits than you can count.

Mapuana de Silva, whose Halau Mohala Ilima has been part of Merrie Monarch for decades, said Thompson was "old school, totally honest and everything she did was for the kumu, the halau and the hula."