Human Flower Project

To Live and Die in Honolulu

How would you like to be remembered? Honolulans have their floral photos and “arrangements” ready.

imageAlbert B. Fernandes, Jr.

With Halloween approaching, memory grows heavy as a gourd and thoughts bend toward the great (or is it small?) beyond. Before breaking out in chrysanthemum rash, we’ll look to Hawaii.

There, just on the face of things, the funereal is floral. We’re not delving into abstruse customs (drive a stake through the heart of that inner anthropologist!)—only reading the obituary pages of the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

imageMartin Luke and Kunyio Anderson

A joy to behold, about half the final portraits of Honolulans include flowers. Sometimes just the tip of a plant peeks from the bottom of the photo. Much more often the departed are shown wearing crowns or leis. Albert B. Fernandes, Jr. appears to be wearing at least four lei over a flowered shirt. Martin Luke smiles inside a strand of orchids. Kunyio Anderson wears a paper lei (neon-green) over a glorious necklace of what appear to be beads or shells and feathers.



(l-r) Laura Wolfe, Evelyn Keolanui, Jasmine Amona, and Lorraine Mitsugana

Floral headpieces are more of a womanly accessory, in death notices at least. Laura Ellen Wolfe wears a delicate headband of roses and babies breath, though she’s the exception. In most of the obit photographs, the flowers are far more tropical. Evelyn Keolanui twinkles beneath a browful of starry white orchids.  Jasmine Keala Amona wears a crown of bell-shaped flowers, golden yellow. Lorraine Mitsunaga smiles broadly, with two orchids perched on her black hair.

imageSegundina Quiocho Quiton and Dawn Aloha Kekoolani

And in many portraits, the departed wear both lei and coronas. Segundina Quiocho Quiton is sumptuously outfitted and wears a blissful look, too. Dawn Aloha Kekoolani’s portrait is a glamour shot, likely taken right on the beach. Annie Leilani Antoni (pictured below), who has seen many Hawaiian summers, now rests in the perpetual, fragrant shade.

Flowers are usually mentioned explicitly in these brief obituaries. As on the mainland, there are “in lieu of” requests, some definitively Hawaiian.  “In lieu of flowers, donations suggested to the Hana Canoe Club.” Others say simply “No flowers.”

But quite a lot of the death notices gently – or even firmly – encourage floral tribute.

Flowers welcome.

Family requests lei flower arrangements only, no wreaths.

Loose flowers and lei welcome.

A paddle-out with release of loose flowers and pa’ina will follow.

imageJoseph Quimpo, Sr.

A 77 year old gentleman from Honolulu chose to be remembered with a leaf of what looks like cannabis emblazoned on his ball cap,:

“Joseph Quimpo Sr., 77, of Honolulu, a former Batesville Casket employee, died at home. He was born in Hilo. He is survived by wife Bernice; sons Joseph I, Joseph II, Joseph III, Joseph IV and David; daughters Christine Lewis and Lori Ann; and a grandchild. Services: 10 a.m. Saturday at the family’s residence, 322 Auwaiolimu St., Honolulu. Casual attire. Lei welcome.”

imageAnnie Leilani Antoni

So many paid obituaries hope to “celebrate the life” of someone. In our view a final portrait that includes flowers is a tiny but effective means to that end. Somehow these people look more radiant, more satisfied with life – and death—than do their flowerless counterparts in the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Is your portrait with corsage or lei, corona or floral backdrop ready for publication?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/21 at 11:50 AM


Juile, fyi, The Economist published a review of Sarah Murray’s “Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre—How We Dignify the Dead” and the essay is illustrated with a photo of a deceased man covered with cloth, spices (I think), and flowers.

Posted by Georgia on 10/27 at 05:27 PM
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