The Hālāwai community mourns the passing of Uncle Newton Kulani Purdy
The Hālāwai community mourns the passing of its beloved kupuna, Uncle Newton Kulani Purdy on 2/11/12.
Affectionately known as Uncle Ku, he was born in Hawai’i on October 15, 1928 and raised on Molokaʻi until the age of 9 when his mother passed away. His Grandma Lindsey and Aunty Elaine bought Ku back to Oʻahu where he was raised by Grandma until her passing in 1938. On Grandma’s passing, his Uncle Clarence & Aunty Florence Kinney welcomed Ku into their large ʻohana.
Ku joined the army in 1947 and served in such faraway places as Alaska where he met his good friend Lani Pereira and in France where he discovered Hawaiian musician expats who had been living in Paris since the 1920s. After his discharge, Ku returned to New York to be close to his family & the Hawaiian expat community. He worked for many years as a leather cutter in the garment center and subsequently with the Hawai’i Visitor Bureau’s local office.
Uncle Ku’s good-natured personality was infectious and people readily embraced him. So as the local expat population grew, Uncle Ku began collecting contact information as a way to keep everyone connected. His passion for "connecting and keeping in touch" led to his creation of the "Polynesian Registry" (way before Facebook and email). Over time, the Registry grew to include expats all along the East Coast.
We also owe Uncle a debt of gratitude for planting the seed in the late 1950s that eventually grew into the annual Hawaiian Potluck Picnic in Central Park, a tradition which continues to this day on the first Sunday of June. At each and every picnic, you would find Uncle signing folks up for his registry. Whether you were Hawaiian or just someone with an interest in Hawai’i, Ku would count you as one of his NYC ʻohana.
In 2002, the Hawai’i Cultural Foundation (HCF) honored Uncle Ku, along with Aunty Betty Makia, for his commitment to the NY/HI community and their lifelong contributions to promoting Hawai’i, its people and culture. The recognition brought Uncle to tears.
Ku was an avid photographer and collector of memorabilia. His collection of news articles, programs, and menus was the main source for HCF’s 2003 event honoring the Hotel Lexington’s Hawaiian Room Hula Maidens.
In 2006, Ku returned home to Molokaʻi but before he did, he gifted photo albums to the old-timers who had kept aloha alive in NY throughout the years.
A kind and generous man, he will be sorely missed.
Aloha ʻoe, Uncle. Mai poina ʻole.