Thursday, January 30, 2003

Family and friends gathered yesterday before services at Kawaiaha'o Church to pay tribute to Gladys Brandt. The services capped three days of religious and cultural ceremonies.

Farewell, Auntie

Hawaiians unite to remember
a life of public service

By Sally Apgar

For the 24 hours of traditional chants, prayers and ancient rituals, the koa urn holding the ashes of Gladys Kamakakuokalani Ainoa Brandt was guarded by members of a Hawaiian royal society who wore white gloves as they gently waved black and white feathered kahili, the symbol of alii.


Crowds packed historic Kawaiaha'o Church for funeral services last night that capped three days of religious and cultural ceremonies held to honor Brandt. A revered kupuna and educator often referred to as "Auntie Gladys," Brandt died in her sleep earlier this month at the age of 96.

In his eulogy, Federal District Court Judge Samuel King, a longtime friend and confidant, said: "Even as we bid her farewell, she will still be with us in spirit as everyone's aumakua to continue to counsel us in the ways of pono so that we may do right in our lives and in our public service. That will be the ultimate gift to her memory."

King praised her, saying: "She had a sensitivity for the need for radical change when the old ways were no longer productive. She knew just how to respond to a person or group."

Ancient Hawaiian and Christian services began Tuesday evening at Kawaiaha'o. During a traditional vigil held for alii, members of the societal order Hale O Na Ali'i O Hawaii, dressed in white muumuus and regal red-and-gold capes stood guard in shifts over the koa urn, which was draped with an orange feather lei.

From Tuesday evening until early yesterday evening, people walked down the red-carpeted aisle to pay respects to her as different groups took turns performing chants, mele and hula.

An alii descended from the ancient chiefs of Kalan-iopuu, Brandt was the highest-ranking member of Hale O Na Ali'i behind the Kawananakoa family.

Greens gathered from the places she touched adorned the table on which sat her urn. The urn was cradled in kukui in different stages of maturity to symbolize how she had been a light showing people the way.

Rare ferns, maile and flowers such as ilima and pikake were flown in from Kauai, where she served as a teacher for many years. More ti leaves came from Kamehameha Schools, where she served as principal of the girls school and later as the director of the coed high school. More plants came from the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which bears her name. Braids of ti leaves were wrapped through the church.

"Many hands and many hours made these braids. The braid is to bring Hawaiians together as she brought us together," said Dutchie Kapu Saffrey, a friend and Kamehameha grad.

Dani Aylett, 13, whose grandmother helped organize the flowers, said "there are enough ti leaves here to wrap around the entire island."

Saffrey looked over the crowd and smiled at how in her death Brandt brought Hawaiians together at the same time she brought them back to their traditions. Those crowding the church to pay respect were friends as well as longtime political foes.

Brandt was proud of Hawaiian culture and fought hard to restore forbidden traditions and to resurrect pride in being Hawaiian.

In his eulogy, King said Brandt once told him that "her proudest moment at Kamehameha was outmaneuvering the all-male trustees of the Bishop Estate on whether or not Kamehameha School girls would be allowed to dance (hula) standing up. As absurd as this may sound today, the school had a firm policy against presenting their girls swaying from side to side while standing.

"Gladys demonstrated her commitment to her Hawaiian roots by getting this policy overturned."

King added: "The importance of this achievement must be measured against the then denigration of Hawaiian culture, and even of Hawaiians among the social and business leaders of Hawaii. Gladys was adamant that Hawaiian culture was something to preserve and practice and not something to suppress."

Some of the rituals and chants honoring Brandt yesterday dated back to the days of Queen Liliuokalani and before. For example, her genealogy was honored in a kanikau reading by historian Rubellite Kawena Johnson.

Before the "simple Christian service" Brandt requested, Hawaiian organizations that were closely tied to Brandt chanted as they proceeded down the aisle to lay ho'okupu, or gifts, near her lei-lavished portrait and urn.

She was honored by Hale O Na Ali'i, the Royal Order of Kamehameha, 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu, Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors -- Mamakakaua, Kamehameha Schools, Hui Hanai, Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club, UH's Kamakakuokalani Center, Aha Punana Leo and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Different groups took turns performing chants, mele and hula before the memorial service at Kawaiaha'o Church. The performances took place from Tuesday evening to early yesterday evening.

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