THERESE HAUNANI BERNARDINO
UH-Hilo teacher, musician was mother to many
Noted musician Therese Haunani Bernardino was like a "sacred mother."
She was a mother to her five younger sisters, her students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and to neighborhood stray cats, said longtime friend Karen Napua Brown.
Brown, a part-time Big Isle judge, said the state lost a friend, mother and powerful advocate for Hawaiian cultural values when Bernardino succumbed to colon cancer last month.
Bernardino, 56, of Honolulu, died on Aug. 27. She was considered an important steward of the arts and the Hawaiian language, which she taught at UH-Hilo.
Before UH-Hilo she taught at UH-Manoa from 1972 to 1989. She started the kupuna program at the state Department of Education, designed to enrich public school students about the culture and language.
She was often sought as a Hawaiian-English translator, and researched and edited works on topics such as indigenous language immersion.
Bernardino also was one of the original members of "Ka Leo Hawaii," a student Hawaiian-language radio program in the 1970s. Many of her students from that time have become teachers in the school systems.
Beginning in the 1970s, Bernardino played traditional Hawaiian music with the group Kawaina and composed several competition-winning songs and chants. Some of her songs, written for children, are used as resource material in the DOE, like "We Are Ohana."
"She had so many projects throughout the land," Brown said. "Haunani, she was everywhere, doing everything."
Brown said Bernardino was a mother figure for her five younger sisters.
"When they lost both parents, she was the glue that kept the family together," Brown said. "Being the oldest, she was the disciplinarian. She was the mom."
Bernardino's strict maternal characteristics fed into the classroom, Brown said. "She had such high academic standards, and she was a taskmaster. But her students loved her. Her office was always open to them."
Also, Brown said, "she drove us nuts because she loved stray cats. And then if they got lost, she would cry and would become inconsolable."
Bernardino is survived by brother Andrew and sisters Noreen K. Momi, Mona, Julie and Monica "Ewalani."
"She was aloha, and we were blessed with knowing her," Brown said.
Services will begin 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at Kawaiaha'o Church in Honolulu. Visitation is at 4 p.m. Flowers and leis are welcome.