As many as twenty five thousand people came together in Waikiki to honor him. An Air Force honor guard (he was a retired Air Force pilot) presented a 21 gun salute and the traditional flag was given to his family.
At a private (but televised) ceremony on the grounds of the Sheraton Waikiki, guests included politicians, musicians and family members, all of whom where dressed in white, except for Ho's wife, Haumea, who wore a floral orange dress and a maile lei. Ho’s ashes, wrapped in ti leaves, were carried out to sea by family members, who boarded red and yellow outrigger canoes . Later, his 25 year old daughter, Hoku, who had worked with her dad in recent years, sang "I'll Remember You".
A local TV station's news helicopter dropped flowers and the Honolulu Fire Department's fire boat added a water canon salute. The Hawai'i Air National Guard even received special permission from the Pentagon to fly an F-15 Eagle fighter jet over the spot where Ho's ashes will be scattered, and tip its wing in his honor.
I remember my mother listening to Don Ho albums back in the 60's (I listened too) and I got to see him perform live a couple of times back then. His style was not "traditional" Hawaiian, but more a mix of Hawaii with 50's and 60's style crooning. Many of the songs Don made famous were written by Kui Lee, including Tiny Bubbles, I'll Remember You, and The Days of My Youth. Don's performances were always fun, laid back, and romantic. He was wildly popular with the tourist crowd, loved by the local folks, and was a great draw for the islands. He often helped his fellow entertainers during their lean times by offering them paying gigs to open his show.
Don Ho's ancestry was Hawaiian, Chinese, Portguese, Dutch and German. I only bring that up to illustrate the beautiful ethnic rainbow that is Hawaii.
I actually had the opportunity to meet Don several years ago. I was chairing the Buddhist Education Committee for the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, and he was one of a handful of people that year to receive their "Hawaii's Living Treasures Award" for his life-long service to the community. At the time, he seemed to be rather perplexed by all the attention and the award, as if he didn't feel he had done anything special. He had always just lived the aloha spirit. I'm not sure what he would think of Saturday's events. One of his friends said, "he'd think we were crazy."