HONOLULU (KHON2) — Flags across the state are flying at half staff following the death of Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, a descendant of Hawaiian royalty. Iolani Palace made the announcement Monday morning on Dec. 11 that she died peacefully last night at her Nuuanu home.
In her later years, Kawananakoa had fought a long legal battle over her estate worth more than $200 million. After suffering a stroke in 2017, a judge eventually ruled that she was too impaired to control her finances. But before all that happened, Kawananakoa made it a point to support Native Hawaiian causes. Among the beneficiaries was Iolani Palace where officials there said she contributed more than $2 million.
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“She could’ve made those donations anywhere else, but she chose to do it here for the palace because she loved everything about the palace and what it represented to herself and to Hawaii,” said Paula Akana, executive director of The Friends of Iolani Palace.
Akana adds that the heiress also donated historic pieces of jewelry and artifacts to be displayed at the palace.
“And she did so with a stipulation that they had to be shown to people, they couldn’t be hidden away in our storage room. She wanted it so people could see what these items were and learn from them, which was a pretty neat thing to hear from somebody,” said Akana.
Also benefiting from her generosity is Bishop Museum.
“She made a generous donation sometime ago as part of our initial restoration of the entire Hawaiian Hall complex which went on from 2006 to 2013,” said DeSoto Brown, Bishop Museum Historian and Curator for the Archives.
Brown adds that there are many other individuals who she financially supported.
“There were people who got regular paychecks from her who were just essentially being Hawaiian people doing Hawaiian things and carrying on Hawaiian traditions,” he said.
Kawananakoa is the great granddaughter of James Campbell, one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.
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The company released a statement that said, “Abigail Kekaulike Kawananakoa was a faithful and supportive shareholder of the James Campbell Company, and she will be remembered fondly. Throughout her long and productive life, she was a champion of the Hawaiian people.”
Akana added that Kawananakoa was always gracious. Kawananakoa was 96 years old.