Dudoit sought to share Molokai with world

In the more than 45 years of her hula halau’s existence, Moana Dudoit had a hand in teaching more than 300 people ranging from children to senior citizens.

The Molokai native also helped carry out her dream of spreading the island’s style of aloha, traveling to the Mainland, Japan, Europe and the South Pacific with Moana’s Hula Halau, her family and friends said.

“She thought and she dreamed beyond the circumstances of just living on Molokai,” said her grandniece Zhantell Dudoit, representing the family. “She felt Molokai had the most special people, and the type of love and aloha and family you find on Molokai, you cannot find anywhere in the world.

“She said, ‘We’re going to bring our own brand of Molokai love throughout the world. If we did it a little at a time, it would be infectious.’ “

Moana Dudoit died early Saturday at Molokai General Hospital. She was 73 years old.

“She was very well loved by everyone on the island,” said Molokai native Shirley Rawlins, who grew up with Dudoit and was a longtime friend. “It’s really a big loss to us. She was so special in every way, so sweet, so giving and always, always making sure that everybody’s OK.”

Born on Nov. 19, 1939, Dudoit was the youngest of 19 children of Maurice and Lahela Dudoit. She was born in Moanui, on the same property where she was raised and lived her entire life.

The area near Mile Marker 20 on Kamehameha V Highway on Molokai’s East End was named Maurice Point after Dudoit’s father. Today, the area is known as having the best snorkeling grounds on the island, Zhantell Dudoit said.

Returning to Molokai after college, Moana Dudoit ended up running Dudoit’s Bus Service. Her father had started the family business as a taxi company, at times trading fish and taro for rides to Kaunakakai from the East End, Zhantell Dudoit said.

She said that cultural traditions were strong in the family, with Moana Dudoit’s mother fluent in Hawaiian. Moana Dudoit, who was a young child when she began dancing, started the halau as a way to preserve Hawaiian culture through hula and music, her grandniece said.

Moana Dudoit and sister Raquel Dudoit have been kumu hula for the halau, which began with family members and grew to include others in the community.

Joining the halau always has been free, supported by an annual hula show fundraiser in February, as well as funding from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and community donations, Zhantell Dudoit said. “She wanted to afford that opportunity to everybody.”

The youngest halau member is 5 and the oldest is nearly 90. Some have left the island for school before returning and continuing in the halau. “Once you’re a member, you’re always a member of the family and of the halau,” Zhantell Dudoit said.

Students learn both kahiko and auana styles of hula, with some male halau members also performing fire-knife dancing. “They’re a show halau, like a Polynesian review,” she said.

Over the years, the halau competed in the Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island and members traveled to Tahiti, Europe and Japan, which also has a Moana’s Hula Halau group, Zhantell Dudoit said.

“She had a special love for the Japanese people because they treated her like royalty, as they probably do most kumu hula,” she said. “My Aunty Moana loved Tahiti. She tried to take every one of her family members there.”

In 2005, Na Kupuna O Moana, made up of retired senior citizens, was recognized by the Maui County Council for winning the overall competition award and three first-place individual honors at the Hawaii Kupuna Festival.

“Kumu hula Moana Dudoit and Raquel Dudoit once again outdid themselves with their production of a hula set to the musical ‘The Lion King,’ which brought the crowd to their feet and stole the show,” the council resolution said.

As part of Dudoit family tradition, generations would gather for Sunday dinners at Moana Dudoit’s house, her grandniece said. “She was pretty much the matriarch of our whole family and she took care of all her brothers’ and sisters’ children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

In 2010, Moana Dudoit was hospitalized for five or six months after suffering complete organ failure, her grandniece said. “It was a miracle that she came back to life,” Zhantell Dudoit said. “From that time on, she had complications. But she was very strong and very high spirited. She never complained too much.”

When she was hospitalized a couple of days before her death, Dudoit was very ill and family members were with her in the hospital, her grandniece said.

“Her wish was always to pass on Molokai with her family,” she said.

A celebration of Moana Dudoit’s life is planned April 27 at the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai. The event will begin with a gallery showcasing her life and the opportunity for people to record messages from 9 to 11 a.m., followed by a service from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. From 1 to 5 p.m., her halau and other entertainers will perform in a hula concert.

In addition to her sister, Dudoit is survived by 15 nieces, seven nephews, 27 grandnieces and 25 grandnephews.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.