EVANITA SUMNER MIDKIFF
Was born June 8, 1922 in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, and died on February 25, 2011, in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was 88.
She was the oldest daughter of George Wilson Sumner and Eva Elise Helene Focke Sumner, and granddaughter of Anita Alejandra Neumann Focke Lloyd and great-granddaughter of Paul Neumann, attorney general for King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani. Although Paul Neumann was only the Queen’s attorney general for 36 hours, he was her personal attorney until his death in 1901. He served as her personal representative, and with Prince David Kawananakoa traveled to Washington D.C. in February of 1893. He and Prince David successfully kept Hawaii from becoming a Territory of the United States under President Grover Cleveland. That changed in 1898 when McKinley took office. He also successfully negotiated a pension for the Queen and Princess Ka’iulani to live on. In 1895, Paul Neumann defended the Queen at her trial.
Her father, George Wilson Sumner, was from Indiana, a Naval Submariner, and attended the US Naval Academy, came to Hawaii with the Navy, and became President of American Factors (now known as AmFac). He died of a heart attack in 1963. His ancestor originally came to America as Louis Crocketagne, a French Huguenot, settled in Virginia, served as a Captain in the colonial militia (pre-Revolutionary War), and his family eventually migrated west to Indiana. Another of her ancestors was Martha Crockett, Davy Crockett’s first cousin.
Her mother, Eva Elise Focke Sumner, was born in Honolulu in 1898. Mrs. Sumner served as Regent of the Daughters of Hawaii and as President of the Garden Club of Honolulu, and was a Director of the Garden Club of America, and was a Board member of the Pan-Pacific Board of the Metropolitan Opera. Her great-grandfather was Paul Neumann, an attorney (originally from East Prussia, Germany) who trained in San Francisco and came to Hawaii with Claus Spreckels, the German sugar baron. Eva’s grandmother was born in Acapulco, and was German, Mexican Indian, and Spanish. Eva’s mother, Anita Alejandra Focke Neumann Lloyd, grew up in Honolulu, and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a poem about her when he saw her at one of King Kalakaua’s balls.
Evanita was the oldest of three children. Her brother was George W. Sumner, Jr., and her sister is Elisabeth Sumner Erdman. She attended the Valley School and Punahou School. One year, her parents took her out of Punahou and she spent a year studying at Chateau Marie Josee in Gstaad, Switzerland. She was a tremendous athlete at Punahou. She swam and was a champion swimmer, having won the Waterhouse Cup, dove, rode horses, played tennis, and was a ROTC sponsor, on the rifle team. After her graduation, her grandmother planned to take her to Europe for a year before college, but World War II broke out in Europe, so she spent a year in Dana Hall School, a boarding school in Massachusetts, before attending Vassar. She spent two years at Vassar before the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941, and immediately came home to Hawaii after the attack. She served in the WARD (Women’s Air Raid Defense). Due to her father’s Navy connections, her family home became an unofficial place where Navy officers were welcomed. She had an active social life, and was asked for her hand in marriage several times.
She married Robert Richards Midkiff in 1948, a fourth-generation descendant of missionaries on his mother’s side and a descendant of schoolteachers on his father’s side. His father became a trustee of the Bishop Estate, after serving as the principal of Kamehameha Schools, and as a teacher at Punahou. She raised five children, Mary, Robin, Shelley, Robert Jr., and David. In 1950, they moved their first two babies to their house on Kahala Beach.
She was always energetic and active, and loved to travel, especially to Europe. She once sold World Book encyclopedias to finance a trip around the world with the three girls, and later became a successful real estate agent, but gave it up when it became evident that it was interfering with her golf game. She was an excellent golfer, and won several awards in her division, and achieved a remarkable record of three holes-in-one. She played regularly on Tuesdays at Waialae Country Club, and before that, she was a regular at Oahu Country Club. She took up running in her fifties, and regularly came in second in her age bracket in many 10-K races. When she gave up running, she walked regularly every day for several miles.
She was a remarkable volunteer, and was involved in many community organizations. She served as Regent of the Daughters of Hawaii for two years, and chaired the Publications Committee, coordinating the publishing of several books, including a major book on koa furniture. She was co-chair of the Ali’iolani Hale History Center Restoration, President of the Junior League, a long-time member of the Garden Club of Honolulu, and served on many golfing committees. She was a passionate and articulate community volunteer.
When her Kahala house burned to the ground in 1970, she supervised the rebuilding of a lovely new home in the same spot. She wrote about her unpleasant experience with the insurance company in a Honolulu magazine article, “Your House Burns Down – and Where’s Your Friendly Insurance Man?”. Later, when a friend died of lung cancer, she wrote another article, “Death Begins at 40″ for the same publication. When she and the Apua Gang attended a Rolling Stones concert, she wrote a funny article called “It’s Only Rock and Roll”. Writing came easily to her.
She was glamorous and independent, and her photograph appeared many times in various publications. Her social network included the Apua Ale and Sail Gang, a group of friends who grew up together and maintained their Punahou connection all their lives. With many children trailing beside her, she took up golf on the Kahuku golf course. The Apua Gang children all became friends, and the parents taught them to sail and gave them a large extended network of connections. As her parents had done before her, her home became the scene of many wonderful parties. She and her husband decided to take disco dancing lessons, and invited their friends to join them at their house in Kahala for those lessons. There were so many parties given for her friends and for her children, and most of those parties ended with rolling up the rug and lots of dancing. She danced hula, and danced a wonderful “Makee Ailana” and “Papalina Lahilahi”.
She is survived by numerous family members, including her loving husband of sixty-two years, Robert Richards Midkiff; and five children, Mary Lloyd Midkiff Fiedler, Robin Starr Midkiff, Shelley Sumner Midkiff-Borunda, Robert Richards Midkiff, Jr., and David Wilson Midkiff; and her six grandchildren, Jennifer Cooke Fiedler, Julia Wright Fiedler, Alejandra Sumner Lili’uokalani Borunda, Erich Atherton Deines, Anita Starr Deines, Gabriel Itzcoatl Borunda, and her sister Elisabeth (Betsy) (Mrs. C. Pardee Erdman). She was pre-deceased by her brother George W. Sumner, Jr. (Bebe Moody).
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made in her name to the Daughters of Hawaii, 2913 Pali Highway, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817, or to Punahou School, 1601 Punahou Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96822, for the Robert R. ’38 and Evanita S. ’39 Midkiff Endowed Fund to support Early Childhood Education, or to any charity of your choice.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 19, 2011 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, 229 Queen Emma Square, 96813, with a private interment service at the Mission Houses Cemetery.