In addition to being a philanthropist, Muriel Macfarlane Flanders was also a composer. Flanders died yesterday morning at 93.

Philanthropist and songwriter
dies at age 93

See also: Obituaries

By Leila Fujimori

While Hawaii knew her as a generous philanthropist, Muriel Macfarlane Flanders spent her lifetime composing songs of Hawaii.

"She was a poet," said her daughter Alice Guild. "It was just a natural evolution into songwriting. When she found the perfect word or stanza, the perfect way to capture a thought, it was like finding an Easter egg."

Until two years ago only one of her songs, "Sea Breeze," had been commercially recorded (by Jack de Mello in the early 1960s).

But on her 92nd birthday, an album of 15 of her songs, performed by artists including Tony Conjugacion, the Cazimero Brothers and the late Moe Keale, was released by Mountain Apple Co.

Flanders, 93, died yesterday morning.

Before her death, she was the eldest living grandchild of wealthy businessman and landowner James Campbell, whose estate remains one of the largest private landholders in Hawaii, and daughter of Abigail Kamokila Campbell.

Flanders found a way to combine two of her loves -- music and Hawaii's children -- by donating funds to start a music program at Hale O Ulu, a high school in Ewa for youths in crisis run by Child and Family Service.

"I remember her telling me she only wanted the best ukuleles for the children, and 'the very best ukuleles are the Kamaka ukuleles,'" said Geri Marullo, president and chief executive officer for Child and Family Service. "'You call the Kamakas, and you tell them it's for the children.' So our children have the best ukuleles.

"We're going to miss her very much, but her ukuleles will always be treasured," Marullo said.

Flanders, who played the piano by ear, wrote both lyrics and music, incorporating Hawaiian legends and stories she was intrigued with.

Flanders was a major donor to dozens of organizations and institutions.

She was dedicated to beautifying the environment, contributing toward many Outdoor Circle projects, including a rest area on the makai side of Diamond Head and beautifying Lanikai Point.

"She did so many great things for the community and never wanted any credit for it," said Mary King, board member of the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle. "She would give in any way anybody asked her to."

Her husband, Walter Flanders Jr., came up with the idea for the CD and approached de Mello about it, but died in 1999 before it was released.

"She was definitely the grande dame of Hawaii," said de Mello, who produced the CD "Songs of Muriel Flanders," which has done well commercially.

He describes her as a gracious, warm and wonderful lady. "She was such beautiful spirit inside,' he said, and outside "she was gorgeous, she was stunning and had such a persona about her, such an aura."

For Conjugacion, Flanders' death was difficult to handle.

"I feel a part of myself is dying because those people are who I am. An entire era is passing on," he said as he wept.

She is also survived by daughters Mary Philpotts-McGrath and Judith F. Staub, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Services: 11 a.m. Tuesday at Oahu Cemetery Chapel in Nuuanu. Aloha attire. Leis welcome. Donations suggested to Friends of Iolani Palace, Outdoor Circle, Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii, Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, Child and Family Service or Honolulu Academy of Arts.

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