Don Ho immortalized with new bronze statue in Waikiki

In the loop

Renowned musician Don Ho was memorialized with a sculpture released last week to celebrate Waikiki’s International Market Place anniversary on Friday. Photo via AP

During his prolific career in the 1960s, Don Ho was the must-see musician at International Market Place in Waikiki, drawing record-number audiences of both Hawaii residents and international visitors. To commemorate Ho’s tremendous contributions to Hawaiian music and history, the reimagined International Market Place, set to celebrate its one-year anniversary on Friday, unveiled a one-of-a-kind bronze statue of the performer last Sunday.

“We are incredibly grateful to all who were involved in the creation of a timeless piece that honors Don’s legacy at International Market Place,” said Ron Loch, vice president of planning and design for Taubman, which partnered with CoastWood Capital Group to reimagine the shopping, dining and entertainment destination. “Careful consideration went into where the statue would be displayed, so we positioned it to welcome guests with warmest aloha as they enter the center from Kalakaua Avenue.”

The statue debuted on what would have marked the entertainer’s 87th birthday. Together with members of the Ho family, hundreds of admirers gathered beneath the 160-year-old banyan tree at International Market Place. Longtime friends and fellow musicians including Henry Kapono, Melveen Leed, Marlene Sai, Nina Keali’iwahamana, Kimo Kahoano, Nathan Aweau, Joe Mundo, Angel Pablo and James Dela Cruz performed in a kanikapila jam session with musical tributes to Ho. Ho’s family members also joined the festivities, which were attended by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Gov. David Y. Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige were also in attendance.

“Don was the essence of Hawaii, the embodiment of aloha. He won the world over with his passion for community, his fellow servicemen and of course his love for music and his charming charisma. We are incredibly proud of his legacy,” said his wife, Haumea Ho. “This is Don’s homecoming, to a place he loved dearly, and we are honored that through this memorial he will continue to share his aloha for decades to come.”

Designed by Oahu-based artist Kim Duffett, the 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound bronze sculpture depicts Ho in the 1970s, and was created to convey his warmth, charisma and carefree aloha that charmed audiences. Duffett conducted substantial research on Ho’s life, gathered historic photos and talked story with the singer’s family members and countless friends to gain inspiration.

“I wanted to create a signature performance pose as if Don was beckoning someone in the audience to join him on stage, as he often did,” said Duffett, who also is a musician and participated in the kanikapila.

During his International Market Place residency at Duke Kahanamoku’s lounge, Ho revolutionized the Waikiki showroom scene with a simple, good-time lounge show that spotlighted his laidback and affable personality. He scored a worldwide hit with “Tiny Bubbles,” earning him a national recording contract and an assemblage of best-selling albums, television appearances and his own namesake network variety series.

Don Ho’s statue dedication is part of the monthlong celebration of International Market Place’s one-year anniversary. Other events and promotions include the Island Vibes Summer Concert Series, Waikiki Nights: Duke Kahanamoku Movie Night, in partnership with the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation and Duke’s OceanFest, a chance to earn HawaiianMiles and a special performance by the Royal Hawaiian Band.

Located in the heart of Waikiki, International Market Place is a world-class shopping, dining and entertainment destination featuring a curated mix of upscale and lifestyle brands, and the first Saks Fifth Avenue in Hawaii. The shopping center is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Operating hours for restaurants and department stores will vary. Visit