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Celebration of Life slated for Richard Kealoha Ho‘opi‘i Sr.

By Staff | Mar 22, 2018

Richard Ho‘opi‘i Sr. is featured on three of George Kahumoku Jr.’s Grammy Award-winning compilation CDs that were respectively honored with the 49th, 50th and 52nd annual Grammy Awards for Best Hawaiian Music Album. He was a frequent guest artist at Maui’s Slack Key Show and traveled regularly to the Mainland with the Masters of Slack Key Guitar.

KAHAKULOA – Richard Ho’opi’i Sr. passed away on the early morning of March 3, 2018 at his home in Kahakuloa Village.

He is survived by his wife, Priscilla Ululani Kaonohi Ho’opi’i; sons Kendall “Chico” Kaonohi (Lana), Richard Ho’opi’i Jr. (Torie), Ramzey Ho’opi’i (deceased), Rueben (Stephanie) and Likeke Ho’opi’i; daughters Regina Ho’opi’i, Rozanne Ho’opi’i, Kamaile Ho’opi’i and Kalena Ho’opi’i (Hana); daughter-in-law Maipela Kaonohi; 21 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; brothers Ronald Kenolio (Nani) and Herbert Kenolio (Ella); and sisters Abigail Morris and Cyrilla Kealohanui (Helio)

A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, March 24, at the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku from 3 to 9 p.m. and Sunday, March 25, in Kahakuloa Village from 9 a.m. to noon, with lunch to follow at Ho’oponopono Hall.

His family noted, “Thank you all for the outpouring of love and support for our ohana during this time. If you would like to kokua in any way, please contact Richard Jr. (344-5755), Rozanne (269-0021), Kamaile and Ululani (244-7151) or Kauilani at 344-6311.

Richard was born on March 15, 1941.

Possessing a vocal range from bass to falsetto, he had an amazing voice – powerful and controlled, even in the highest registers.

This talent, combined with his engaging smile and stage charisma, made him a perennial crowd-pleaser.

Known as half of the popular Maui duo The Ho’opi’i Brothers, Richard practiced the traditional Hawaiian art of leo ki’eki’e (falsetto) his whole life.

He and his brother, Solomon, his lifelong singing partner, were recipients in 1997 of the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts Folk Heritage Fellowship, America’s highest honor for traditional artists.

Born in the tiny village of Kahakuloa on Maui’s remote northwest coast, Richard grew up immersed in the rural Hawaiian lifestyle of family, church, taro farming, fishing and homemade entertainment.

There was no TV, nor even much radio, so everyone in the village helped make music.

As a child, Richard sang while doing his chores, at church and at school. As a teenager, he was invited to join the All Maui Choir under the direction of the legendary Royal Hawaiian Band singer Alice Johnson.

Slack key guitarist Sonny Chillingworth provided valuable professional experience by inviting young Richard to perform occasionally with his band.

Kumu hula (hula masters) also asked him to perform with their dancers on a regular basis.

“Aunty Alice, Aunty Emma Sharpe, Uncle Sonny, Aunty Genoa Keawe, our mom and dad, brothers and sisters, they taught us so much more than music, It was a whole way of living,” he said in a Slack Key Show biography.

In 1968, the brothers started their own group, The Ho’onanea Serenaders, which after several years became known simply as The Ho’opi’i Brothers.

Together they recorded seven albums and performed widely.

After the passing of his brother, Richard recorded the CD “Ululani,” named for his lovely wife, representing a new journey as a solo artist.

He selected a mixture of favorite songs from his hometown of Kahakuloa performed in the old way.

The recording showcased his unique style of singing and firmly established him as a solo performer.