By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Kumu hula Frank Hewitt is hugged after giving a chant
during today's funeral for Mae Ulalia Loebenstein
at St. Patrick's Church.

Hundreds come
to pay tribute to
‘Aunty Mae’

Mae Loebenstein,
kumu hula, 'taught the value of
being a total dancer'

By Mary Adamski

Hundreds of people gathered at St. Patrick's Church this morning for Mae Ulalia Loebenstein, sharing memories and gifts of song and dance for the beloved kumu hula who died a week ago.

Entertainer Robert Cazimero, who played the piano at the start of today's wake service, said, "Aunty Mae brought so many things to the hula of today: honor, discipline, elegance and her longevity.

"When I think of her, I think of my mother, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time because I know she's up there playing music with my mother, and I'm kind of jealous."

His mother was Elizabeth Cazimero, who played in various Hawaiian musical groups with Loebenstein.

Kumu hula Frank Hewitt led the procession of mourners, which included many prominent musicians and dancers, as they proceeded up the aisle to the casket. His personal response to Loebenstein's death: "She won't be there at my birthdays anymore. She always attended every special event in my life. When I think of what she was, a person of her wisdom and knowledge, and she took time out to do that for me, it was special. She was always so full of laughter, spirit and happiness."

The mourners in the flower-filled church came bearing lei to drape Loebenstein's coffin. As was Loebenstein's wish, six lead dancers of her hula halau sat in front with the family.

Charles Maxwell, a Hawaiian activist on Maui and also a kumu hula, said Loebenstein "taught the value of being a total dancer. It wasn't just learning hula, it was part of your personal life and how you conducted yourself as a total person -- that's what hula is all about. Her manao was really down to earth. Her values came from growing up in a small community of Waiehu of Maui."

Composer and musician Irmgard Aluli said: "I have known her for many years as a Maui person and a musician. She was a very respected musician."

Aluli's nephew Hailama Farden did an impromptu chant at the front of the church when the casket was brought. He said it described the natural elements of Maui and that they are mourning that she is gone.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Friends and family pay respects to Mae Loebenstein.

It was a morning of spontaneous gifts of music, chant and dance as people paid their respects by sharing their talent. "That's how we were raised, to share what talent we have, and that was Aunty Mae's teaching too," Cazimero said.

The four members of Hookena, musicians for Loebenstein's halau at the Merrie Monarch Festival for the past four years, were among the dozens of entertainers at services this morning.

Two of "Aunty Mae's" favorite songs -- "Ka Loke," an old Maui song about the rose, and "Jungle Rain" -- were to be performed in the church by members of her halau, Ka Pa Hula o Kauanoe o Wa'ahila.

Loebenstein was to be buried in the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl alongside her late husband, Albert.

Yesterday, twined ropes of ilima and pikake draped the front-row center seat where Loebenstein always sat. It was a silent memorial during Sunday services at St. Patrick Church for the parishioner, who died June 30 at the age of 86.

"She played with almost everybody" during her 60 years of singing, dancing and playing ukulele and bass, said her granddaughter Maelia Loebenstein.

Seventeen of Loebenstein's dancers wore identical Hawaiian bracelets engraved with "S.S. Kilauea." Loebenstein presented them to her girls to commemorate their triumph at this year's Merrie Monarch Festival. The troupe captured the overall-winner trophy, was named top women's group and won first place in kahiko (traditional) hula. They danced to songs choreographed by grandmother and granddaughter commemorating Loebenstein's great-grandfather Thomas Long, captain of the interisland steamship Kilauea.

Mae Loebenstein, who had taught with other halau, formed her own school in 1992. She was elated this year at taking the high honors after five years of Merrie Monarch competition. Her daughter, Albermae Stewart, and granddaughter will continue the halau.

Loebenstein was born in Kahului, Maui, the daughter of Henry and Ida Long. She learned the hula from her mother from childhood. Loebenstein recalled in a 1990 interview when she was selected Lei Day Queen how her parents taught the family to speak Hawaiian and know their roots:

"When my father finished work on Friday, we would move to Paukukalo (a village on Maui's Iao River)," she said. "We stayed in grass huts and wore malos and wraparounds. The adults fished, gathered limu, cooked outside and shared with the whole village. As children, we were always watching and learning."

The family suggests that contributions in her memory be made to the Mae Loebenstein Scholarship Fund.

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