Crowning Our Kupuna

Lei Day gives first time honors to deserving seniors.

By Brandon Roberts

Spring is a time of rebirth, of newness, and the perfect atmosphere for Kupuna Lei Day which was filled with youthful spirit. This year’s Queen Dorothy Nihoa and King Kenneth Nip reigned over the first kupuna May Day festival held at Home Pumehana retirement center.

Queen Nihoa will be 94 in August. She has seen every Lei Day celebration since the event first began in 1928, however this year was her first to be crowned as queen.

Aunty Nihoa is originally from Mana`e and now lives in Ho`olehua. She has worked in the terraced taro patches and the pineapple fields, and has farming in her veins. At the age of 90 she retired as a Senior Companion, where she would drive and assist many seniors much younger than herself. The Queen continues to volunteer and remains active in the community.

King Nip was also first-time royalty. With his crown and cape, he took his seat next to the Queen for Kupuna Lei Day at the Pumehana Senior Center on May 6. King Nip humbly accepted the honor, saying his peers “just picked me up; I didn’t want to, but they insisted.”

Mr. Nip is a retired school teacher and volunteers his time, reading with keiki at the public library, helping with MEO food distribution and Kaunoa Senior services. He also shares his wonderful voice with patients at Molokai General Hospital.

“Everyone should be king or queen once in their life,” Aunty Gladys Brown said, her face lit-up from the festivities.

This year’s royal court was symbolized by the eight major Hawaiian Islands. Each couple proudly displayed the colors and flowers that symbolize each island.

Paul Lu`uloa and Maka Joao represented Big Island and were the first to take seat in the court. Kulani Purdy and Aunty Didi followed for Maui, Joe Barno and Tiny Domingo as Kaho`olawe, with Ron and Lani Kula signifying Lanai.

Symbolizing Molokai’s spirit of `ohana were Eddie Gorospe, escorting his mother Mary Lou. Next came Oahu with Alex and Anna Bishaw, Thomas Awai and Ululani Rodriguez followed as Kauai, and the royal court concluded with Drake Wells and Denona Chu as the island of Ni`ihau.

Kupuna celebrated their Lei Day with the light-hearted spirit of their youth; glowing with smiles, singing and hula – all while draped with leis that filled the senior center with sweet Hawaiian flora.


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