A lifetime of creating memories
I didn't know Nona Beamer as well as I've come to know some of the other members of the Beamer ohana. I met her sons, Keola and Kapono, when they were performing in Waikiki in the 1970s and we've been friends ever since. I've also been fortunate to enjoy the wit and the comic hulas of her brother, C. Keola "Uncle Keola" Beamer, the dancing and exquisite piano styling of her cousin Mahi Beamer, the singing of her cousin Sunbeam Beamer, and the graceful dancing of "Cousin Gaye" Beamer. And, just last year, there was "Live From The Lo'i," the debut album of her grandson, Kamana Beamer, and his group, Kamau.
And yet, I remember several moments that I feel fortunate for having shared. I remember seeing her perform as a special guest of Keola and his wife, Moanalani, one evening on the grass near the Waikiki Aquarium. The music was beautiful, and with John Kolivas playing bass, Keola and Moanalani were a complete and self-contained celebration of Hawaiian music and hula. And then Nona came out and danced a hula that was simultaneously comical and risqu, and "beautiful" became magic.
I was in the audience in the Monarch Room in 2005 when she received Honolulu Theatre for Youth's Nancy Corbett Lifetime Achievement Award for her many contributions as an educator and an advocate of Hawaiian culture. In accepting the award, she entertained the crowd with stories of her experiences in Waikiki in the 1920s and '30s. Each story ended with the comment, "It's very different now," and although the stories sounded light-hearted I felt the kaona (hidden meaning) as well -- perhaps some of the changes had not been for the best.
I remember the times that she shared her knowledge of Hawaiian music with me, and I remember a conversation in which she spoke of her love for her sons. She lived long enough to see them both happily married and securely established as individual musical icons in their own right, and long enough as well to see her grandson well on his way to earning his Ph.D.
And she also lived long enough to see the language and the culture she loved bounce back from near extinction -- even on the Kamehameha Schools campus where the Hawaiian language and hula performed standing had once been forbidden.
Thank you, Nona Beamer, for all that you shared with us.
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