A Royal Philanthropist and Benefactress

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Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa
April 23, 1926 – Dec. 11, 2022

Hawaiʻi grieves the loss of HRH Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa, age 96, who passed away peacefully at her Nuʻuanu home with her wife by her side.

Known fondly as “Kekau” by her family and close friends, Kawānanakoa was a member of The Royal House of Kawānanakoa, which held close ties to Hawaiʻi’s last two reigning monarchs King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Born in Honolulu, Kawānanakoa was the only child of Princess Lydia Kamakaʻeha Liliʻuokalani Kawānanakoa Morris (whose father, David Kawānanakoa, was heir to the throne) and William Jeremiah Ellerbrock, a doctor. Her parents eventually divorced and, at the age of five, she was legally adopted by her maternal grandmother, Princess Abigail Wahiikaʻahuʻula Campbell Kawānanakoa, who raised her in the regal atmosphere of Hawaiian nobility.

Kawānanakoa’s royal lineage is distinguished and ennobled by courtesy title as the eldest granddaughter of Prince David Laʻamea Kaluaonalani Kahalepouli Piʻikoi, surnamed Kawānanakoa.

Prince David, along with his young brothers Edward Abnel Keliʻiahonui and Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, were recipients of Letters Patent issued under the seal of the kingdom by King Kalākaua “granting the dignity of Prince to their Royal Highnesses…with precedence under the title of Royal Highness next to [their mother] Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Kinoiki Kekaulike above all other subjects.”

After the passing of Princess Mary Kinoiki Kekaulike in 1884, her older sister, Queen Kapiʻolani received guardianship over the three boys who took up residence in ʻIolani Palace with King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani.

An heir to the estate of her great-grandfather James Campbell, Kawānanakoa was educated in boarding schools abroad. She also attended Dominican College in San Rafael, CA., and later the University of Hawaiʻi.

Kawānanakoa was a benevolent patron of Native Hawaiian language, culture and arts, and she gave generously to many individuals and families who sought her support. Prominent among the projects that received her support was the monumental restoration of ʻIolani Palace to its former grandeur under the reign of King Kalākaua.

Gov. John A. Burns initially entrusted the restoration to Princess Liliʻuokalani Morris and, upon her passing in 1969, Kawānanakoa carried on her mother’s legacy.

For nearly 30 years Kawānanakoa led the Friends of ʻIolani Palace, meticulously restoring the palace, and traveling the world to purchase furniture and other artifacts from the palace that had been sold off by the provisional and territorial governments after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Kawānanakoa remains the greatest benefactor of ʻIolani Palace, which stands today as a historical museum and cultural treasure.

Kawānanakoa was also a patron of the movement to revive Native Hawaiian language through her early and strong support of ʻAha Pūnana Leo, the Merrie Monarch Festival, and numerous private and royal foundations.

She was also known for her personal generosity to individual Native Hawaiians, providing scholarships and paying the medical bills of those in need, among other acts. She established three foundations in her name so that her philanthropy will continue after her passing. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Abigail K.K. Kawānanakoa Foundation, established in 2001, set aside $100 million to support Native Hawaiian causes.

A talented and avid equestrian, Kawānanakoa is beloved among the quarter-horse community nationally. She raised championship horses and was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2018. She was especially known for her ethical and loving treatment of horses.

She is survived by her wife, Veronica Gail Kawānanakoa, in addition to Kawānanakoa descendants Esther Nāpelakapuokakaʻe Kapiʻolani Kawānanakoa, David Klaren Kaumualiʻi Kawānanakoa, Quentin Kūhiō Kawānanakoa, and Andrew Piʻikoi Kawānanakoa.