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“Aunty” Betty Kawohiokalani Ellis Jenkins, hulu kupuna, passed peacefully this past weekend.

Aunty Betty liked to report that she was a first born of a first born, of a first born. She is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and was the first student of color of then Muskingum College, now Muskingum University in Ohio.  A retired elementary teacher, Aunty Betty taught in Ohio, California, throughout Micronesia, Guam and Hawai’i.

More than a kupuna member of Papa Ola Lōkahi’s board, Aunty Betty was part of the POL ‘ohana for many years.  She served on the advisory councils for the Pacific Diabetes Education Program, ‘Imi Hale – Native Hawaiian Cancer Network, and as a cultural advisor to the traditional healing program, where she partnered with Babette Galang to deliver presentations on Hawaiian values, culture and beliefs for practitioners and providers at Tripler Medical Center and Veteran Affairs. For 10 years, she participated in the Wisdom of the Elders session at the annual convention of the American Public Health Association.

With an emphasis on Hawaiian language, tradition, history and cultural values through teaching, modeling and mentorship, Aunty Betty captivated audiences with her setting of the most relaxed impromptu educational backgrounds known as her “ambience.” Always the educator, she championed a code of ethics she called her “4Bs – Believe, Behave, Become and Belong.”

Her foundation came from her parents Richmond Kaliko Ellis of Nāwiliwili, Kaua‘i and Elizabeth Nālani Spencer Merseberg of Hāmākua, Hawai‘i.  Tutu Ellis, māmā and mentor, was manaleo who lived to be 100.

Aunty Betty wore many hats, even in her retirement. She was the alaka‘i of OHA’s Kupuna Team, which included Aunties Nalehua Knox, Ulu Garmon and Maile Vargo. She continued her relationships with Life Foundation, Haudenosaunee Nation, Native Hawaiian Education Council, Hawaiian Civic Clubs and her favorite North Shore community groups.

Aunty Betty was recognized for her lifetime achievements by the Hawai‘i House and Senate, Native Hawaiian Education Council, North Shore Chamber of Commerce, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kamehameha Schools.  She was awarded the Ka‘ōnohi Award by Papa Ola Lokahi, Ka Lama Kukui Award by the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and was named a Living Treasure by the Honpa Hongwanji.

Aunty B was dedicated to her ‘ohana and their shared practice of unity, balance and harmony, and connection with Ke Akua and her Hawai‘i.

Our aloha to her children Kimo, Kaipo and Nālani, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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