Noted author’s novels and
poetry reflect experiences
of Hawaiians

Marjorie Putnam Sinclair Edel, an accomplished local author and poet who was the widow of former University of Hawaii President Gregg Sinclair, died June 22 in her Arcadia Retirement residence at the age of 91.

Born in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1913, Edel arrived in Hawaii in 1935 as the first UH graduate exchange student after she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Mills College in Oakland, Calif.

Upon arrival in the islands, she discovered a new passion: "I just very much wanted to write about the Hawaiian people," she told the Star-Bulletin in an interview three years ago.

Sinclair went on to write a pair of novels ("Kona" in 1947 and "The Wild Wind" in 1950) and a biography ("Nahi'ena'ena: Sacred Daughter of Hawaii," in 1976). She also wrote a number of poems and short stories that reflected the native Hawaiian experience in the early 20th century.

In a biography about Edel, Patricia Houston wrote, "Her writings were influenced by aging and a calm acceptance of old and new conflicts. ... She wrote extensively about what she observed of Hawaiians and Hawaii's other ethnic groups."

She married Sinclair, a teacher in the UH English Department who went on to become the university president in 1942. After Sinclair retired in 1955, Edel taught in the UH English Department and worked with the Hawaii Literary Arts Council for 25 years.

During this time she also collaborated on a number of translations with Chinese poet Lily Pao-Hu Chong and was editor of "The Path of the Ocean: Traditional Poetry of Polynesia."

"She was a gracious, lovely lady who was deeply interested in poetry and English literature," friend Laurence Gay said. "Her writings reflected her great love for Hawaii and the islands."

Sinclair died in 1976. Four years later she married Leon Edel, a UH English professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of literary figure Henry James.

Marjorie Edel received the Hawaii Writer's Award in 1981.

She is survived by nephew Reed Putnam and nieces Anne Putnam Harris and Helena Putnam Cantin. No services will be held. Her ashes will be scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

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