Disney paid tribute to Aunty Kau’i in a loving post shared yesterday.
Last week, Kau’ihealani Mahikoa Brandt aka Aunt Kau’i passed away surrounded by her loving family. She was a longtime castmember at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. She was best known for her hulu lessons and you could always catch her smiling face handing out handmade leis.
Read Disney’s heartfelt retelling of her story below:
“Aunty Kau’i was a kumu hula (hula master) performing in Hawai’i when Disney talent scouts recruited her to come to California and dance the hula three times a day in Adventureland.
In 1971, she traveled to Florida as an Opening Day cast member to launch the first dinner-show luau at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. It was supposed to be a three-month assignment, but Florida agreed with her and—punctuated by occasional returns to Hawai’i to participate in hula festivals—Aunty Kau’i stayed on.
In time, she became a Cultural Ambassador at Disney’s Polynesian Village, greeting guests with her handmade leis and grass skirts and teaching guests and cast alike to dance the hula as she happily swayed in her brightly colored muʻumuʻu and strummed her ‘ukulele. A photograph with a smiling Aunty Kau’i became a coveted treasure for hundreds of thousands of guests, and children sought her out when their families returned for vacations.
A peaceful woman who lived a life of balance and harmony, Aunty Kau’i encouraged everyone she met to embrace the joy in life.
Mahalo nui loa, ‘Anake Kau’i. Your legacy lives on.”
After the day of her passing, Walt Disney World President Josh D’Amaro and senior Vice President of Resorts and Transportation Thomas Mazloum visited her home. They gathered at sunset with her fellow castmembers of the Polynesian Resort to remember their friend in song.
Afterward, they tossed their funeral leis into the water. This is a longstanding Hawaiian tradition that represents the cycle of life.
Source: Disney Parks Blog.
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