Robert Kekaula, whose outsized personality and generosity made him one of Hawaii’s most recognizable personalities, died this morning. He was 56.
Kekaula was KITV’s assistant news director and Spectrum Sports’ play-by-play announcer for University of Hawaii football telecasts.
But the multi-talented Kekaula was best known for his decades-long career as a sportscaster, where he delivered reports with the vibrancy to match his bright custom-tailored aloha shirts. His contacts were so strong in the UH sports community that colleagues nicknamed him the “General Manager.”
Kekaula also was a talented musician and composer. His friendship circle did not have boundaries. Kekaula was embraced by the music community to law enforcement.
“We have heavy hearts this morning as our ‘ohana has lost its mighty wings,” the Kekaula family wrote in a statement. “Robert Kaleimomi Kekaula passed peacefully at 8:25 a.m. surrounded by his family. He lived his life his own way and was so much to so many people. His heart was full of love for his family, sports, and most of all, music.
“Our wings are broken but we will fly again one day. And Robert will fly besides us and continue to guide us along the way. Mahalo to everyone who touched his life along his journey. Aloha ‘oe to our father, partner, brother, uncle, friend. We ask for privacy as we get through this difficult time.”
UH Athletics released a statement on Twitter saying they were heartbroken by the news of Kekaula’s death.
“In over 25 years covering Rainbow Warrior Football on both radio and television, Robert witnessed our biggest wins and most painful losses,” according to a statement. “Not only was he an announcer, but he was a friend to many of our coaches, student-athletes, and staff members. UH Athletics has truly lost one of our own. Rest in Aloha, Robert.”
News of Kekaula’s passing spread nationally. Sportscaster Larry Beil, who first hired Kekaula as a KGMB intern, was emotional as he remembered his close friend.
“He lifted himself from nothing and turned himself into one of the most popular sportscasters,” Beil said. “It was from pure hard work. … He worked really hard to always help other people. I really respect that about him.”