Julie Honda, right, with Martha Melton, left, her hanai sister and best friend.
Photo courtesy the Honda family.
Julie Honda always had her say and way in life; in death, she’s pretty much got the same pull.
Honda, wife of longtime Hawaii hotelier Fred Honda, died Nov. 3 in Loveland, Colo. She was 85.
“Julie was truly a ‘game fighter,’ never faltering and keeping active in spite of her many medical handicaps,” said Fred Honda. “A decade ago, her doctor said had five years —well, she had 10.”
It was not an easy decade; she had two open heart surgeries, had a pacemaker installed, and battled a failing kidney. But Julie and Fred marked their 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year.
In the early morning of Oct. 28, she was at home shortly after midnight, navigating a snack of milk and cookies, when she fell, resulting in light hemorrhage in her brain and fractures in her neck, according to her husband.
She had surgery, recovered well enough to laugh and talk with a neck brace, but suffered two heart failures and was placed on life support. Family members were notified and gathered at Greely McKee Hospital, where her wishes were fulfilled: She was pulled off life support. It was her call, loud and clear.
If you knew Julie, you knew she was forthright and frank, insightful and insistent, manipulative and methodical, sometimes rubbing folks the wrong way. But she was a mover and shaker, a hustler and an achiever, with a wide community reach and with aloha to spare.
She always became a beacon of the community she entered, like organizing the Kona Coffee Festival and arranging parades and crafts. She is the lone Honorary Lifetime Member of the popular visitor and resident event.
Whenever Fred Honda pulled managing duties at hotels statewide — Keauhou Beach Hotel, Princeville, Halekulani — Juilie would take on occasional social directorships, sometimes as paid staff, often as a community volunteer.
Her aggressive, open style made her a pal of several first ladies, wives of sitting governors, as well as queens such as Miss America, Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Philippines to participate in a variety of community events.
She rubbed shoulders with fashionistas and designers, entertainers and chefs, CEOs and politicos.
Over the decades, Julie made her mark: at Lahainaluna High School, she was the only woman in the Future Farmers of America; with La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the gastronomic society, she was the a regional offer and the first woman to receive the President’s Medal; she was the first woman president of the Kona Chamber of Commerce.
She worked in retail at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom in San Francisco, with airlines such as United, Delta and Air India, with resorts like Maui’s Royal Lahaina, Sheraton Maui and Kaanapali Beach Hotel. She also was a small business owner, operating Julie’s Boutique and Koa Puka.
Because of mounting health issues, she wound up in Loveland, Colorado, to be near daughter Patti Honda-Davis, who tended to caregiving tasks.
Survivors include husband Fred Honda, daughter Patti Honda-Davis, son Kyle Kalani Honda, daughter Lee Ann Doering (from Fred Honda’s earlier marriage), brother Gilbert Barcoma, Glen Barcoma, sisters Chris Souza, Pricilla Duque, Sandra Kanemitsu and April Moniz, and grandsons Travis Kanekoa Davis and Garet Kealii Davis.
Services will be held in Loveland, but Julie Honda was precise about Honolulu and Maui memorials. In notes prepared September, 2014, Julie mandates that that her remains be cremated and kept until husband Fred joins her for burial on Maui, above her mother’s grave. Yes, she already selected her urn design.
Julie demonstrates how she's the captain of her ship and her final voyage: She requests that Randy Hongo perform “My Way,” not “Amazing Grace,” or perhaps “The Impossible Dream;” on dress before creation, she requests
“my white lace holoku with pink underlinings; on photo to display, “the one with peacock;” on family attire, “I want my siblings to be wearing red flower in their hair.”
A celebration of her life will be held in Honolulu in early December, specifics to be announced.