Sunday, October 4, 2015         


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Master artist helped preserve Hawaiian culture

The niece of "the Duke" was famed for making Hawaiian feather capes

By Rob Shikina


Jo-Anne Kahanamoku Sterling, a longtime member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a master artist known for her Hawaiian feather capes and the niece of legendary waterman Duke Kahanamoku, died in her Kona home Friday. She was 80.

The family is awaiting an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

Kahanamoku Sterling has been recognized for her work to preserve the Hawaiian culture and received many awards, including the Bishop Museum's Maoli Arts Month award as a master artist and Duke's Waikiki's Hookahiko Award for passing along Hawaiian traditions.

"We are not an oppressed race; rather, one that forever will uphold its early beginnings," she wrote in her will, her daughter Patty Teruya said.

Kahanamoku Sterling participated from 1977 to 1998 as a crewmember of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, sailing throughout the Society Islands, Tonga, New Zealand, Rapa Nui, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Hawaii, according to Bishop Museum.

She also participated in a 34-day voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1980.

Born in Tahiti, Kahanamoku Sterling attended Sacred Hearts Academy before graduating from Roosevelt High School.

She learned Hawaiian feather cape making, and taught the art on Maui and the Big Island. Her artwork remains on display at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui. She was contracted to make a cape for the new Disney hotel planned for Ko Olina.

Teruya, who learned feather cape making from her mother, hopes she can finish the cape for her.

Jim Fulton, president of Duke's Oceanfest, a weeklong event in August that celebrates Duke Kahanamoku's achievements, said Kahanamoku Sterling is the one who brought together and strengthened the bond between the Duke Foundation and the family.

"We couldn't have done it without Jo-Anne's help," he said.

Outspoken and boisterous, she served on the Native Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council. She served with several Hawaiian organizations such as the Royal Order of Kamehameha, Kahekili Chapter, and commissioner of the street name commission on Maui and the Big Island, which ensured that proper Hawaiian names were chosen and spelled correctly on street signs, the family said.

The family will hold a service on the Big Island this week and plans to have her ashes picked up by the Hokulea and taken back to Oahu. Kahanamoku Sterling's remains will be spread off Waikiki Beach, the same place her uncles' ashes were spread, sometime this week.

She is survived by son Steven Teruya; daughters Gene Santos, Lori Young, Elianne Vannatta, Moeata Schmid and Patty Teruya; brother Samuel "Bunny" Kahanamoku; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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