The festival organizer led music gatherings in her Kaimuki home
By Gary T. Kubota /firstname.lastname@example.org
Her free and private musical gatherings in the loft of her home in Kaimuki became one of the pillars of Hawaii’s entertainment community.
Under Jackie Ward’s leadership, Ward’s Rafters became a place that helped encourage new performers and launch careers.
Ward died Wednesday at home. She was 95.
Born Jacqueline Hope to a Russian-German Jewish family in New York City, she worked as a dancer and choreographer in Hollywood and New York, and as a radio reporter in Prague before she and her husband, Herb Ward, moved to Hawaii in 1966, her family said.
Her son Laurence said Ward also worked as a recreational specialist for the City and County of Honolulu for several years, helping to organize festivals.
Ward was an early and staunch supporter of Hawaii Public Radio, serving on its board at a time when commercial radio stations opposed the idea, recalled Hawaii businessman John Henry Felix, who once was its board chairman.
“She was one of the pioneers,” Felix said.
Herb Ward, who was classically trained as a musician, was a instructor in music at the University of Hawaii and Punahou School and developed the top floor of their home for musical gatherings.
He died in February 1994, just as renovations were nearing completion.
“The first musical gathering was my dad’s service,” Laurence Ward said.
Recalled jazz singer Starr Kalahiki: “My first jazz gig was at Ward’s Rafters. It was exhilarating.”
Kalahiki said she was nervous singing jazz but the atmosphere was warm and the audience, appreciative.
Entertainer Paul Sato, who plays the banjo for the country/folk/rock group Saloon Pilots, said the venue provided an opportunity to play a wide variety of music.
Sato said Ward treated musicians equally well, whether they were Grammy-award winners or new performers.
“She was a special woman,” Sato said. “We’re not going to find another Jackie Ward.”
Ward is survived by her sons Laurence and Norman; brothers Bobby and Eugene Rippen; and granddaughter Paola Ward.
A celebration of life is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 22 at Diamond Head Mortuary. Donations are being accepted at givebacktojackie.com.