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As student, then teacher, Punahou was in her blood

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Informal gatherings for Hattie Eldredge Phillips have already been held. Phillips was not retired.


Punahou School lost a student, a teacher and, most important, an "auntie" with the death Wednesday of Hattie Eldredge Phillips.

Phillips, a longtime elementary school teacher, played a key role in fostering Hawaiian culture among students, serving as director of the annual May Day and Holoku programs. She was 62.

"Auntie Hattie taught generations of Punahou students about the depth and breadth of Hawaiian culture, sharing not only her knowledge, but her generous spirit and abiding compassion," said Punahou President Jim Scott in a letter to the staff. "From her student days as a song leader through decades of inspirational teaching and leadership, she inspired us all to treasure Hawaii, Punahou, and each other."

Phillips entered Punahou as a fifth-grader and graduated from the high school in the class of 1966. She started teaching in 1970 and was hired as a first-grade teacher in the Winne Units, where she later taught second- and third-graders.

In 1996 she moved to the Academy, or high school, where she became the Holoku Pageant director. Most recently she was the K-12 director of Hawaiian resources in the Kuaihelani Center at Case Middle School and director of the annual May Day celebration.

After graduating from Punahou, she went to the University of the Pacific in California, earning a degree in liberal arts.

"Being away from Hawaii, I began to realize how important it is to understand and share the Hawaiian culture," Phillips said in a 2008 interview in the Punahou Bulletin. "I wanted to come back to Punahou and simultaneously learn and teach what it means to live on an island with such a rich history."

Phillips was an active alumna. She returned to Punahou School and served as the Punahou Alumni Association president and had been a member and director of the Alumni Glee Club for more than a decade.

She played a prominent role in organizing the Flaming P, an annual dinner and dance followed by lighting of a 10-foot fall P on Rice Field, and countless other alumni events. She was the recipient of the annual "O" in Life Award in 2008, given by the alumni association.

Buff and blue ran through her veins. Her mother, Leilehua Judd Eldredge, graduated in the class of 1926; her older brothers Dave and Pal, in 1949 and 1964.

"Hattie will be sorely missed, but her joyous, generous spirit lives on in the thousands of members of the Punahou ohana who were blessed by her boundless aloha," Scott said.

Informal gatherings were held yesterday and Wednesday in Thurston Memorial Chapel. Details of her memorial service will be announced soon.

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