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Gilliom family remembers their mother’s humor, talent, kindness

Performers Amy and Eric, canoe captain Timi to celebrate their mother’s life today

Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom credits some of her earliest singing lessons to her mother Marilee “Mimi” Gilliom.

“She was in the choir and I learned all my harmony from my mother,” recalled the Grammy-nominated and Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning singer, who attended church with her mom as a child. “She had a beautiful voice. And she is a really beautiful hula dancer and Tahitian dancer, from my grandmother.”

Marilee Gilliom, who died on Dec. 2, 2021 at Maui Memorial Medical Center, was remembered by her family as the matriarch who told amazing stories, supported her children’s theater ambitions and had a great sense of humor.

Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, Eric Gilliom and Timi Gilliom will pay tribute to their mother in a celebration of life service at 10 a.m. today at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Kahului where their mother was an elder and Sunday school teacher. The service will be livestreamed for those unable to attend.

“We’re celebrating the life of a wonderful mother, and one of the kindest human beings on planet earth,” Eric Gilliom said.

A family cousin, Kumu Hula Micah Kamohoali’i, posted on Facebook: “If you had the chance to meet aunty Marilee Gilliom, you know you were in the presence of such a loving, extraordinary, amazing being. She loved telling stories of her life as they were like flowers of a lei or ornaments on a Christmas tree, which every piece had a great story and memory attached to it.”

Of Ojibwe and Norwegian ancestry, Marilee Ruth Otterson was born on April 12, 1939, in Eau Claire, Wis.

“She was brought up very Lutheran in Wisconsin,” Hanaiali’i Gilliom said. “When she moved to Los Angeles, she married my dad when he was 17 and she was 18. They met (at a luau) and eloped to Las Vegas. My mom’s side of the family didn’t know it was going on.”

The couple moved to Maui in 1971.

Growing up, all three siblings excelled in their respective careers — Amy and Eric as musicians and in theater productions, and Timi as a fisherman, who became captain of the Mo’okiha O Pi’ilani voyaging canoe and a crew member of the Hokule’a. He just returned to Maui after sailing to Tahiti.

“With both my mom and my dad, everything was about their children,” Hanaiali’i Gilliom said.

Both parents enjoyed helping Maui Youth Theater productions.

“They were behind us 8,000 percent, and drama kids at Baldwin and the Maui Youth Theater back in the day were all at my house because my parents were so welcoming to whatever you were going through or hardships you had,” she said.

Eric Gilliom recalled the support of his parents, who were proud of their children’s achievements.

“I think they both lived vicariously through us,” he said. “Amy and I, especially being involved in their arts, made it a lot of fun for them. And they were part of it, either running the box office or doing concessions, and my dad ran the spotlight. As I say in my ‘White Hawaiian’ show, after Amy and I graduated, my dad stayed on with the Baldwin High School Drama Guild.”

The Gillioms were married for 53 years until Lloyd’s death in 2012.

Hanaiali’i Gilliom became a caretaker for her mother for 10 years, with her daughter Madeline Austin. Often on Facebook, she would post short “The World According to Mimi” videos highlighting her humor and wisdom. In one October video, she recounts a doctor testing her mom’s mental aptitude by asking her to subtract 60 from 100.

“I could care less about numbers anymore, because I was an accountant for my husband for years and I don’t care if I look at another number ever again,” she recalled her mother saying.

The doctor also told her she couldn’t drink beer because of her age.

“Yeah, well bite me,” Marilee Gilliom said.

Besides reading a eulogy at the service, as an homage to his mother, Eric Gilliom has created a show based on the videos.

“My mom loved ‘I Love Lucy,’ so I’m putting together a ‘Lucy’ tribute,” he said. “I’ve taken the best of ‘The World According to Mimi,’ and turned it into a ‘I Love Lucy’ episode. It’s really funny.”

Hanaiali’i Gilliom said she expects musician friends to perform with her at the church.

“After the service, we have a huge tent and all the entertainers will be playing, just very special hymns that my mom loved,” she said. “People are coming from outer islands and family came in from Los Angeles.”

The service will be livestreamed at everstreamlive.com/21.

“It’s a huge hole in all of our hearts,” she said. “Mom was the matriarch of our family.”

Marilee “Mimi” Gilliom is survived by son Timothy Gilliom, son Eric Gilliom, daughter Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, granddaughter Madeline Austin, brother Mark Otterson of Las Vegas and sister Nancy Vander Heide of Las Vegas.

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