Aunty Wilma Healani Holi was an educator, an activist and a cultural practitioner whose kuleana was with her family’s traditional salt pond in Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i, where her grandfather was the last konohiki.
Holi was a secondary teacher and librarian on Kaua‘i for 39 years, as well as an active member of her community before and after her retirement.
A direct descendant of Lot Kapuāiwa, Kamehameha V, Holi died Jan. 16.
Holi submitted a biography to the Department of Land and Natural Resources in 2015, which demonstrated her extensive work in the community, on top of her responsibilities as a teacher. She was a founding director of the Garden Island Canoe Racing Association, later becoming its secretary and race director. She was also the elected president of the Hanapēpē Community Association.
Hurricane Iniki ended Holi’s tenure as the association’s president and she shifted focus to coordinating recovery efforts with the community and military. She also served on the Habitat for Humanity board, and opened a local chapter.
A nonprofit focusing on the health needs of Hawaiians, Ho‘ola Lāhui Hawai‘i, recruited Holi, who became the organization’s president. Under her lead, Ho‘ola Lāhui Hawai‘i opened two community health centers and a pharmacy that makes discounted medicine available in Hawai‘i. As Papa Ola Lōkahi’s third president, she advocated for Native Hawaiian health programs and resources, and later helped lobby for the creation of a College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo.
Papa Ola Lōkahi published a remembrance of Holi on its website, offering more insight into Holi’s activism. She occupied Kaho‘olawe and her testimony to the U.S. Navy was included in the film “Kaho‘olawe Aloha ‘āina.” The biography she provided to DLNR was for her advocacy involving Mauna Kea; Holi presided over contested case hearings and testified as a witness.
Holi attended Pepperdine University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis on health and physical education, followed by a master’s in education in 1979. She earned another master’s degree in library and information sciences from the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa.
Holi is survived by her sisters Gwendolyn Holi, Belle Ka‘iwi, Mona Joy Holi and Henrietta Holi Helm (Zachary Helm); nieces and nephews Denise, Janice, Kailianu, Barbara, Bruce, Benetta, Benehakaka, Tiare, Johanna, Douglas, Carlton, Curtis and Raiatea, and godson Kapono. Services were held last month in Līhu‘e. Condolences can be sent to P.O. Box 368, Hanapepe, HI 96716.