Revered genealogist was ‘a remarkable resource’
By Timothy Hurley
Although Edith Kawelohea McKinzie was a gentle, soft-spoken woman who was small in stature, she was a towering figure in the Native Hawaiian community.
The renowned genealogy, hula and chant expert died Tuesday night at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center, four hours before her 89th birthday.
“This is a big loss in the community,” said kumu hula Vicky Holt Takamine. “She is part of a generation of kumu hula that is passing away. She had so much knowledge.”
The former Honolulu Community College Hawaiian-studies professor was an expert in genealogy and Hawaiiana and was a frequent judge at hula competitions across the state, including Hilo’s Merrie Monarch Festival.
McKinzie is the author of “Hawaiian Genealogies,” volumes 1 and 2, and, among other endeavors, was commissioned to conduct the genealogy of the chiefs of Kahoolawe for the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.
“She was a remarkable resource for decades — for her own work and as an inspiration to others,” said University of Hawaii Hawaiian-language professor Marvin Puakea Nogelmeier. “She leaves a large thumb-print on the Hawaiian community.”
McKinzie established the Bishop Museum’s Hawaiian Language Newspaper Indexing and Cataloging Project and served as its director. She was also chairwoman of UH’s Committee for the Preservation and Study of Hawaiian Language, Art and Culture.
In 2004 the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii named McKinzie a Living Treasure of Hawaii, recognizing her for ensuring that “traditional Hawaiian values and achievements are kept alive so they may be shared and passed on to the coming generations.”
McKinzie was born on Fort Street in Honolulu to a Hawaiian and Portuguese family. She graduated from McKinley High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian studies and a master’s in education, curriculum and instruction from the University of Hawaii.
As a kumu hula, she began formal training with Joseph Ilalaole and later studied and performed with Eleanor Hiram Hoke and Hoakalei Kamauu. McKinzie also studied chant and oli under Edith Kanakaole and Pele Pukui Suganuma, daughter of Mary Kawena Pukui.
McKinzie taught hula throughout Hawaii, Midway Island, Guam, Alaska and across the mainland.
Kumu hula and composer Manu Boyd remembered McKinzie as a soft-spoken and gracious woman with a great sense of humor and a beautiful smile.
“You knew it was going to be a nice day when she entered the room,” he said.
Boyd, who composed a mele for McKinzie and two other hula legends honored at the 2012 Prince Lot Hula Festival, said McKinzie’s knowledge of hula reached deep into the traditions of the dance.
“She leaves a great legacy of traditional hula and thinking that was greatly appreciated,” he said.
McKinzie taught chanting for the State Council on Hawaiian Heritage and was a lecturer with the UH College of Continuing Education in Hawaiian genealogy and mele hula. She was the first Hawaiian-studies professor at Honolulu Community College, a post she held from 1978 to 1997.
Among her many honors, McKinzie received the Pulama Award from the Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Society, the Order of Distinction from the state Council on Hawaiian Heritage and the Kukui Malamalama from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
A longtime friend, Princess Abigail K. Kawananakoa, a member of Hawaii’s royal family, said in a statement, “Edith McKinzie guided me into the world of genealogy and opened the door to the true history of the Hawaiian people. My profound aloha to you Aunty Edith. Mahalo nui loa.”
Services will be held Nov. 8 at Borthwick Mortuary, 1330 Maunakea St. Public visitation will be from 9 a.m. to noon. Service will be noon to 1:30 p.m. followed by lunch from 1:30 to 3 p.m. A burial will be at noon Nov. 9 at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park in Kaneohe.