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Last of the 13 ‘Fabulous Fardens’

By Staff | Sep 19, 2013


LAHAINA – It took two-and-a-half hours last month to celebrate the last of the “Fabulous Fardens,” Edna Pualani Farden Bekeart. She and her 12 brothers and sisters dominated music and dance in Lahaina Town for a century.

No history of Lahaina in the last 100 years would be complete without a chapter on the Fardens. Legendary Kumu Hula Emma “Kapiolani” Farden Sharpe lived to be 87. Legendary Auntie Irmgard Farden Aluli made it to 91 and Auntie Edna to 95.

Historic Holy Innocents Episcopal Church for two-thirds of its 150 years has been the Farden family’s church of choice. King Kamehameha IV had asked the Church of England to send missionaries. The first one to arrive in Honolulu within days headed to what he called Hawaii’s “Second City” (Lahaina). The new church was born in 1862.

Auntie Edna began her 57-year marriage at Holy Innocents’ altar and ended her presence on Maui with a celebration of life. Near her finale, she noted that she was the last Farden. Missing her siblings, Edna reportedly said, “You have no idea how lonely it is. There was no one to say, ‘Do you remember when mom and dad…?”

Father Bill Albinger called Aunty Edna “Pualani.” He remembered that she was pure energy almost to the end, insisting on extensive shopping expeditions into her 90s.

Reminisces about Pualani made it all the way to early evening. “Her passion was education,” Father Bill said in an interview last month. “She was always studying and reading. She was instrumental in forming the first-ever preschool on Maui.

“Her mom and dad were half-Hawaiian. Hawaiian was spoken at home. She was immersed in the culture.”

Pualani’s many passions, in this order, included family, music, history and education.

“Music was very important to the whole family. They were the songbirds of Lahaina,” Father Bill continued.

“On her side, it was not so much the performing part but composition. Some of her songs are still sung today, among them ‘Sassy Little Myna Bird,’ written with Irmgard. Kids always want to sing that.”

“And history – she was very keen on studying Hawaiian history, to get it straight. She was going down to roots,” Father Bill explained.

Pualani was interested in the six bays of Piilani in West Maui and preserving the old Kings’ Road circumventing the island. “She was afraid it would be destroyed,” he said.

The last three Farden keiki – Pualani, Buddy and Rudy – would to walk to King Kamehameha III School and swim home.

At the celebration, a dozen kupuna in royal garb, one after another, showed their respects. Eulogists were preceded by an hour of songs written by the Fardens, including the lyrical “Puamana” composed in 1937 that still rings out nightly everywhere Hawaiian music is played.

At one point, words of a family chant filled the air. Some two dozen surviving family members each stood as their names were recited.

In a long reminisce, a crowd of 100 learned that Pualani was the first woman graduate of Lahainaluna High School, which was previously all male.

In 1956, Pualani won an Aloha Week song contest, and her composing career bloomed. From the 1960s to the ’90s, the “Fabulous Farden” taught school in Oahu and Maui, ukulele and hula.

In 1983, she wrote “Christmas Love,” a song that was her favorite for some period of time. The Bekeart couple moved back to Maui about 20 years ago.

In her late 80s, Pualani talked story and played at George Kahumoku Jr.’s slack key course. Her children were astonished. “Mom,” one said, “you are 83!”

Next came a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award. “It was a defining moment for her. She was proud and honored.” It was like her life was fulfilled, her niece said. (“I am one of the Fardens who missed the musical gene. I can still picture her at the piano, her fingers flying across the keys.”)

For a giant party, Edna once supervised the making of dozens of leis and made four trips to Wailuku in a single day to pick up things for the event.

The 13 Farden children are gone, but the Farden legacy lives on with its proactive embrace of family values. We should all aspire to be like the Fardens – good people who did great things and lived aloha.