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Aholo, Lydia Kaonohiponiponiokalani

The Kamehameha Schools Archives

Lydia Kaonohiponiponiokalani Aholo, the hānai daughter of Queen Lili‘uokalani, who we called Aunty Tūtū, was born on February 6, 1878 in Lahaina, Maui, during the kingdom era of Hawai‘i. She was the daughter of the Honorable Luther Aholo who was a Lt. Governor and Minister of Interior under the reign of King Kalākaua. Her mother, Keahi, died six years after her birth. This is when Queen Lili‘uokalani requested that this child be brought to her. Tūtū was then brought from Lahaina, Maui, to Honolulu, O‘ahu by her maternal grandparents, Lo‘e and Kawehenao.

During her childhood, she lived at Washington Place, which is now called the “The Governor’s Mansion,” and also at the Queen’s Summer Home named Mu‘olaulani, at Kapālama. She had a very happy childhood playing with children of the royal household. One of the games they played was hide-and-seek. The Queen would hide Tūtū under her skirt where no one could find her. You could imagine what would happen if anyone would try to look under the Queen’s skirt!

She attended the Kawaiaha‘o Seminary during her early years and later she attended the Kamehameha School for Girls. She was a member of the first graduating class for girls in 1897. She then attended Oberlin College in Ohio where she majored in Music and Secretarial Sciences. After college, she returned to Hawai‘i and joined the staff of Kamehameha Schools. One of her duties was to teach Hawaiian and she was an excellent stenographer and accountant. She also worked for the Hawaiian Homes Commission and for the Federal Credit Union as a Secretary-Treasurer. At the age of 75, she still took shorthand and kept accounting books. She was finally forced to retire at the age of 75 because this was the maximum age limit for a person to be working.

The only home Tūtū remembered during her early years was with the Royal household of Queen Lili‘uokalani until the Queen’s death. This happened when Tūtū was still attending college. The nearest blood relative at this time was her niece, Mary Keahi Aholo, her brother’s only daughter. When Mary Keahi Aholo married Alfred Apaka Sr. Tūtū resided with this family and their children until she was 88 years old.

She was a teacher all her life. She never married nor adopted any children and yet she had a genuine interest in children. She was instrumental in assisting many children of Hawaiian ancestry to attend the Kamehameha Schools. She was known as “Kūkū” meaning “Tūtū” by many of the students who became lifelong friends. She was very strict in etiquette and taught the Apaka children the proper way of conducting themselves at home or in public.

She was so concerned about the children’s welfare, especially the girls that she even chaperoned them on their dates in the same car even when they were 21 years old. Each grandniece and their children benefited by the opportunity of having Tūtū live with them, sharing with them the love and wealth of her knowledge.

Since music was one of her majors in her education, she was able to assist Alfred Apaka Sr. in the proper phrasing, interpretation, and enunciation of the Hawaiian songs he sang. She was also the director of the Liahona Glee Club, which was made up of members from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This club was organized in the 1920s.

Her greatest love and affection was showered on her grandnephew, the late Alfred Aholo Apaka, who became a famous singer in Hawai‘i. She also taught him about Hawaiian music as she taught his father.

The piano was one of the instruments she played very well. She was the pianist in the Latter-day Saints Ho‘olehua Branch on the island of Moloka‘i. Her musical talents were used and made available to whoever wanted her help.

She had so many friends during her lifetime. They are too numerous to acknowledge individually. Many were well known and many were not. Many of her close friends have passed away and many have been here, and many are here today to pay their last respect to her.

She was tiny in stature and had a very keen mind. She carried herself very nicely, dressed moderately, and could be very critical whenever the Hawaiian language or songs were used in her presence. Her training during her early childhood in manner and courtesy became more apparent as she got older. We noticed these mannerisms whenever she wanted to dismiss us as we visited her.

At the age of 88, she was admitted to Maunalani Hospital due to her health and the attention she needed. After a readjusted period, the hospital became a place of security for her. She loved to go out far visits, but she always felt she had to return to the hospital, which she considered her home. She often spoke about how grateful she was for the wonderful staff and nurses at the hospital who took very good care of her and for their concern over her. She enjoyed dining out and visiting nightclubs until she was 96 years old. Normally, this is far beyond the nightclubbing age. At the age of 97, she had an accident where she fell and broke her hip. She had a successful operation and was nursed back to her normal self. However, she was afraid to try and walk so she used a wheelchair to move about. At the age of 99, as we chatted with her on occasions when she reminisced about her childhood, she remembered the name of her piano teacher and talked about the things she used to do.

She had a remarkable mind and could converse with anyone intelligently at this age. Her hearing became slightly impaired at the age of 101, but we were fortunate to celebrate her last birthday on July 7, 1979, 101 years, 5 months and a day, Lydia Kaonohiponiponiokalani Aholo passed away quietly, leaving behind the memory of a fine lady who had a long happy life, a long name and who shared part of her life with the Ali‘i of Hawai‘i.

She is survived by 1 nephew, 3 grandnieces, 11 great-grandnieces and nephews, 12 great-great-grandnieces and nephews, and the Mahoe and Adams families who are related from the Pule and Puali line on her grandfather’s side.