HONOLULU (AP) - Nona Beamer, a noted authority on Hawaiian culture and matriarch of the musical Beamer family, has died. She was 84.
Beamer, a songwriter, performer, hula teacher and author, died peacefully in her sleep early Thursday at her home on Maui, said Mark Nelson, administrator of Aloha Music Camp, which Beamer founded and operated with her son, Keola, a Grammy-nominated slack-key guitar artist.
Nelson said he and Keola Beamer were on tour, the remainder of which has been canceled. Keola Beamer and wife, Moana, have returned to Maui.
Ailing in recent years, Beamer remained active and last performed with her family at the music camp in February.
"In her own very humble, gracious and truly remarkable way, Aunty Nona was not only a pioneer, alii, musician and humanitarian, she truly is the embodiment of aloha," Nelson said.
Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer was born in Honolulu and raised in Napo'opo'o in South Kona on the Big Island. She was of Hawaiian, German, French, Scotch and Swedish ancestry. Her Hawaiian name is an ancestral name that comes from Princess Manono and means precious flower.
Beamer attended Colorado Women's College, Barnard College and Columbia University. In New York, Beamer met Eleanor Roosevelt when she was first lady, and upon returning to Hawaii, took charge of Roosevelt's program to provide emergency food in all school cafeterias.
In 1949, Beamer began teaching Hawaiian culture at the Kamehameha Schools, and remained there for nearly 40 years. She also took over her mother's hula studio and taught hula in Waikiki for 30 years.
Since retiring as a classroom teacher, "Aunty Nona," as she was commonly called, spent her days sharing her extensive knowledge of Hawaiian culture with various groups and at numerous workshops. At Aloha Music Camp, she shared her knowledge of "Hawaiiana," a term she coined in 1948, and her stories of growing up as a Native Hawaiian.
"It wasn't until I was about 70 that I felt I was doing good as a Hawaiian," she said in 2003. "Now I can be proud to be a Hawaiian. It was a long time coming after years of feeling shame."
Survivors include sons Keola, Kapono and Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, daughter Maile Beamer-Loo and a grandson.
At Beamer's request, no services will be held, and her ashes will be scattered privately on the Beamer family ranch at Kamuela on the Big Island.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press