Elizabeth Dole Porteus, once dubbed the ‘Pineapple Princess’ as daughter of pineapple visionary James Dole, passed away July 24, 2010, at the age of 99 after a distinguished life as an avid historian, genealogist, and author.
Born in old Honolulu in 1911, Betty was a great-granddaughter of missionary William Patterson Alexander. She attended Punahou School and then obtained her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and her master’s degree in social work from Smith College. At Smith Betty worked with wayward youth and had always hoped to continue in social work, but upon graduation she married former Punahou classmate, D. Hebden Porteus, then a young attorney and aspiring politician, and went on to raise five children in Manoa. Betty was active in community affairs, including the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society and the Daughter’s of Hawaii, and supported Hebden’s three-decade career in politics, which included serving as Secretary of Hawaii’s first Constitutional Convention and President of the second ConCon.
A lifelong learner and born with a zest for life, Betty’s life belied her upbringing of privilege, however. Even as a senior citizen she still loved to climb trees, scale the Pali and the cliffs of South Point, go mudsliding at Nuuanu, and hike to the “Toilet Bowl” at Haunauma Bay. She studied Hawaiian language, Hawaiian history, astronomy and native plants, and she shared her knowledge of and love for the islands with stories for family and visitors alike.
Betty will particularly be remembered for her writing, which culminated in her first book being published at the age of 76 and a writing career that extended into her 90s. As Betty described often, the seeds of this were planted when, as a young mother, she took the simple step of “escaping the drudgery of housework” by carving out an hour for herself each day to write. She submitted her work to the Honolulu Advertiser and surprised herself by being hired as a columnist, which she penned under the name of “Anne Drummond” as to not interfere with her husband’s politics. The pseudonym gave Betty greater license to express her own views, and so in between changing diapers and making dinners she wrote on a range of topics which revealed her concern for the lives of women and children.
Eventually Betty gave up her column as her family grew, but she nevertheless continued her writing which culminated in three published books and a host of unpublished biographies. Her proudest accomplishment in writing was publishing her book, “My Twentieth Century Philosophy,” in which she espoused her theory for success in life: follow your own creative impulses. In essence, Betty encouraged people to pursue their dreams and act on their creative ideas, since she was convinced that by doing so would bring harmony to not only one’s life but also to the world as a whole.
True to her own advice, Betty lived her life to the fullest and she will be remembered for her curiosity, intellect, and enthusiasm for life. Her death at the age of 99 marks another milestone in the pages from old Hawaii, yet her legacy continues through her writing and through her large family of 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, all of whom were her pride and joy. Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 14th at the Punahou Chapel in Honolulu, Hawaii. The family requests no flowers but donations can be made to Punahou School.