With only a few weeks until the start of the world renown hula festival that she helped to begin, Dorothy Thompson has passed away.
News of Aunty Dottie’s death circulated over local news broadcasts and internet sites late Friday night, reporting that she died in Hilo. She was 88.
Aunty Dottie was known throughout the islands as the beloved co-founder of the Merrie Monarch Festival, considered to be one of Hawaii’s premier cultural showcases. George Na’ope, another co-founder of the festival, passed away only a few months ago.
Perhaps sensing that her time on this Earth was limited due to her failing health, the Hilo community seized the opportunity to honor her just a few weeks ago. The YWCA named Dottie a “Hawaii Island Remarkable Person” during a celebration that was attended by family, friends and officials. Mayor Billy Kenoi declared it to be “Dottie Thompson Day” in Hawaii, and her loved ones heaped lei after lei around her neck.
Then YWCA President Lorraine Godoy said, “Auntie Dottie’s gift of vision, honor of culture, and devotion to preserving our traditions have been unselfishly shared with the people of Hawai’i and beyond. Auntie Dottie has enriched our cultural, artistic, and business spheres and united our community through this singular event.”
UPDATE: Hawaii’s elected officials have already begun to offer statements on Aunty Dottie’s passing.
“Auntie Dottie exemplified a life of aloha, and she will be sorely missed by all of Hawai‘i.
“Critical to the future of life in these islands is the perpetuation of our host culture, and through the art of hula and the Merrie Monarch Festival, Auntie Dottie established a legacy that will live on for generations to come.
“My ‘ohana, especially in Hilo, is deeply saddened to learn of her passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with Auntie’s family and friends.”
– Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr
We are deeply saddened by the passing of “Aunty Dottie” Thompson and extend our aloha and gratitude to her family, her many friends, fans and supporters here in Hawai’i nei and throughout the world who loved and honored her. Her monumental passing marks the end of an era for our community and for the Hula world.
Best known as the Executive Director and co-founder of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival for 47 years, she was a visionary who embodied the heart and soul of the festival and worked passionately and tirelessly for many years to build the Merrie Monarch Festival into the world’s premier celebration of Hawaiian culture and Hula. She will be greatly missed.
– Office of Mayor Billy Kenoi
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Auntie Dottie Thompson.
“I had the great honor of sharing the stage with Auntie Dottie at the 2004 Merrie Monarch Festival and was proud to proclaim ‘Auntie Dottie Thompson Day’ for her love of hula and her commitment to perpetuating Hawaiian culture.
“I was always impressed and inspired by Auntie Dottie’s strong determination and persistence in ensuring the continued success of the Merrie Monarch Festival, garnering support throughout the community without government funding.
“The Merrie Monarch Festival will go on this year with heavy hearts, but Auntie Dottie’s love and aloha will continue to fill the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium and our state forever.”
– Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle