The Life of Genoa Keawe
A Timeline: 1918-2008
A timeline of events in the nearly 90 years of Genoa Keawe's life
from her birth in 1918 to her death in 2008. I took this picture
of Aunty Genoa at the 2006 Aloha Festivals Falsetto Contest
where she performed a duet from the audience with young
falsetto singer Raiatea Helm, who was onstage. The event
took place in the Monarch Ballroom of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Copyright © Kathleen Walling Fry
More Pictures of Aunty Genoa Keawe
1918 October 31
Genoa Keawe was born October 31, 1918. Her
full name was Genoa Leilani Adolpho Keawe.
She was born in one of a cluster of homes along
Kapiolani Boulevard in an area of Honolulu known
today as Kakaako. The former site of those homes
was later the site of the Theo Davies Car Dealership and
McKinley School. It is often said she was born in
a stable, but that is because the Hustace Peck Stable
Grain Bins were located in that area. When she lived
in that area it was a flat area of coral fields
with very little development except their cluster of homes.
Her ethnic heritage was Hawaiian, Spanish, English,
Dutch and German.
Aunty Genoa Keawe Remembers Kakaako (PDF)
Her family moved from Kakaako, Honolulu, Oahu
to the island of Kauai for a few years, and then
they moved back to Kakaako. In 1928, when Genoa
was about 10 years old, her family moved to Laie
on the North Shore of Oahu.
I believe Genoa Keawe was raised by a single mother.
Genoa keawe joined the Laie Morman Church Choir at age 12.
She was lifelong member of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her sister Annie, who was
a great influence on her music, sang in the choir with her.
She graduated from the 8th grade in 1934.
She said her mother could not afford to send
her to high school and she was very busy singing
at Church events.
A year after graduating from the 8th grade she met her husband
Edward Puniweai Keawe-Aiko. She ;married him in 1935 when she was
16 years old. I believe they had 12 children but some reports
say they had 11. Her husband died before her, but I'm not sure what year.
Her Mother in Law taught her how to speak Hawaiian.
She livede with her in-laws in the Kahana Valley on Oahu
for a few years and later she moved back to her old neighborhood
where she raised her family on Miller Street.
her professional career began in aboutu 1939 when she began
singing for bandstand shows in Kailua. Before World War II
began she also sang at officers clubs and other military clubs
with George Hookano and his band.
In the early 1940's she sold leis and $2 single-stem roses
to military personnel to help cover family expenses not covered
by her music performance income. She also worked for a while
as a taxi driver, mostly providing service ersonnel between Honolulu
and Wahiawa in Central Oahu.
She called in to Uncle Johnny Almeida's radio
show because he asked singers to call in.
She asked to sing, and he invited her to the
studio where she sang "For You, a Lei".
She was an instant hit.
She recorded her first album in 1946. Her first
record label was the 49th State Record Company.
She recorded for a while as "Genoa Keawe and
Her Hula Maidens" and later as "Genoa Keawe and
After recording for 49th State Records, she recorded
for a while on Don McDiarmid Jr's Hula Records label.
Late 1940's and Early 1950's
One of her recordings was a 78 vinyl record
recorded on June 27, 1949 at Club Polynesia.
It included the song "Kaulana O Hilo".
During the early 1950's she performed at
many of Hawaii's top clubs including
Club Polynesia, Aloha Grill, Knights Inn, Hawaiian Village,
the Sierra Cafe, and the Biltmore Hotel.
For a while she was part owner of the Club Polynesia.
She and her family moved to Papakolea on the Big island
of Hawaii. She was still living there when she died in 2008.
1966 (Her Own Record Label)
She was not happy with the deals record producers were
offering musicians. too much $ for them and not enough
for musicians who did all the work.
After she had a falling out with hula records she started her own record
label, "Genoa Keawe Records" in 1966, with her son Gary Aiko
and vocalist Joe Keawe, who was a relative of her husband.
She was assisted in this effort by
her friends Mr. and Mrs. Philip helsley and a $25,000 loan from the
First Hawaiian Bank. Her husband and family helped take care
of her children while she produced and distributed her own records
She was very hands-on, and handled much of the bookkeeping and public
relations herself. She even delivered some of the volume orders
in person to large stores such as Sears, Woolworth, Kress, and Arakawa's.
1966 (Japanese Tour)
1966 was also the year she performed in Japan for the first time.
Her first job was to open the Joban Center Resort and Spa. Following
that she did a three month tour of Japan, putting on shows every day
in different parts of the country. She was a huge hit with Japanese
In 1971 Genoa Keawe hosted a banquet to honor her patron
John K. Almeida.
She first heard him sing when she was 11 years old and she met him in
the 1940's. he invited her to perform many times on
his KULA Radio show.
She opened the Hawaiian School of Music, Language,
and Hula in the Pauoa Valley. She taught
singing and ukulele (what year did that school open?)
The Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort gave her
a contract to perform at thier hotel, first
in one of their lobby lounges and later in their
open air Moana Terrace Lounge. She performed for
for about 14 years. Her last Moana Terrace performance was
on January 31, 2008, less then a month before she died.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 80. They recommended
she do chemotherapy or remove breast. She said
"I've lived a full life. When the lord is ready to take me, I'll be ready."
(note: she also had heart surger. what year was that?)
Genoa Keawe received the National Endowment for the Arts
Lifetime Honor, 2000 NEA National Heritage Fellowship.
NEA Profile of Genoa Keawe
She appeared at an event known as the Kakaako Ocean Fest
in 2002 where she sang and shared her memories of living
Kakaako when she was a very young child.
2007 October 31
She performed in great form at her 89th
birthday party and celebration. I'm not sure
on exactly which day the part was held but her
89th birthday was October 31, 2007.
In January of 2007 Genoa Keawe
received the 2007 Oo Award from the
Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.
NHCC Genoa Keawe Profile
2007 May 14
Genoa Keawe received the Pacific Business New (PBN)
Gladys Kamakakuokalani Ainoa Brandt Kupuna Award for 2007
because of her successful business struggles and her ability
to maintain firm control over her company.
Aunty Genoa Keawe: Hawaiian Lady of Song
2008 January 31
Her last performance at the Moana Terrace of the
Marriott Waikiki Hotel was on January 31, 2008.
2008 February 1
Entered Queen's Hospital in Honolulu.
2008 February ?
While she was in the hospital she performed over the
phone for a benefit she could not attend.
2008 February ?
Discharged from Queen's Hospital.
2008 February ?
Before she returned to her home in Papakolea she stopped at the
Marriott Waikiki Moana Terrace lounge to watch her 26 year old
grandaughter Pomaikai (Pomaika'l?) sing her parts at her regular Thursday show.
2008 February 25
Genoa Keawe died at age 89, in her sleep, at her Papakolea home.
She died about 1:00 a.m. Service arrangements were handled
by6 Borthwick Mortuary and services were conducted by
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a church
she belonged to all of her life. She was survived
by three of her twelve children: Her 1st child Gary P. Keawe-Aiko,
her 8th child Eli Kaeo Paalua, and her 11th child
Eric K. Keawe. Nine of her children died before her.
Their names were Moana, Arthur, Victoria, Edward Jr,
Samuel, Miriam, James, Kauilani, and Sonny. Upon her death,
her family recognized the spouses of her children who have
always provided support when needed:
Howard Lono, Iwalani (Ho), Frederick Amina, Snooks (Watson),
Barbara (Buchanan), Patrick Ah Yuen and two hanai daughters
Suzie Harrison and Roberta Silva.
MORE FACTS ABOUT GENOA KEAWE:
She battled illness the last 10 years of her life.
Was hospitalized Feb 1 but was discharged after improving.
12 children (some reports say 11)
98 great grandchildren
150 (or 81?) great great grandchildren
One of her children was Erik K. Keawe of Keawe Records
she taught ukulele at Windward community college workshops
at their Hawaii Music Institute.
In her career she also toured Russia, Alaska, the US continent, Tahiti and Japan.
Sang on the radio and early tv.
was a regular on Robert Luck's
"Luck Luck Show". Also sang on
nationally broadcast show
"Hawaii Calls" and sevgeral clubs
and hotels on Oahu.
She sang in both Hawaiian and English.
She also worked as a lei seller and taxi driver
Popular singer Alice Namakelua helped her with her
hAwaiian language phrasing and vocal style.
She never drank and never smoked.
When she was very young her family had no electricity
but she lsitened to hawaiian music on a radio at a
ABOUT HER BAND:
Her band was sometimes called Genoa's Hawaiians,
Genoa Keawe and Her Hula Maids, Genoa Keawe and her
Most of her recordings are now available on CD.
(most popular were between 1940's to 1960's)
Her most requested songs were:
Alika (her signature song)
Lena Machado's "Kaulana O Hilo Hanakahi
Alice K. Namakelua's "Nani"
she performed there every thursday night
for 14 years, through her cancer diagnosis
and haert surgery. her last performance
at Marriott was January 31st. She went to
hospital on Feb 1. Her last performance
was singing from her bed
for a hula funderraiser she could not awttend for
health reasons. She sang over th phone.
she went home from the hosptial the thursday before
she died.j before she went home she visited
the Marriott to hear her grandaughter Pomaikai sing
her (Genoa's) part.
What yaer did she begin singing with the Honolulu Rapid Transit
A Tribute to Genoa Keawe: 1918-2008
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