On November 15th, 2001, beloved local singer Loyal Garner died after a two year battle with colon cancer. She was 55 years old.
Garner was born in Kalihi on September 28th, 1946 and grew up between Hale’iwa and ‘Alewa Heights. She was a self-taught singer who got her first big break in 1966 singing at the Golden Dragon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a six-night-a-week gig she took while attending UH Manoa. In 1975, she broke out on the local music scene as a performer at the Canoe House at the Ilikai. She released her first album, Hawai’i Today, two years later.
Also known for her singing in commercial jingles for Cutter Ford and Windward Mall, Garner earned her nickname as the “Lady of Love” as a host for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon. After hearing that the telethon would fall short of its funding goal, she made a tearful plea to the cameras to pledge more money. The telethon went on to exceed its goal.
Garner would release six more solo albums with classic singles like “Blind Man in the Bleachers,” “Mama, I Love You” and “Shave Ice.” In 1997, she formed the Local Divas group with Melveen Leed, Nohealani Cypriano and Carole Kai.
She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and was given 9 months to live. She fought the disease for two years.
To those who knew her, Garner’s legacy is one of genuine warmth and aloha, as well as an indefatigable passion for music. She won the Na Hoku Hanohano award for best female vocalist twice, in 1982 and 1993, and was honored with a posthumous lifetime achievement award in 2007 by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts. She also was one of the first performers to give shine to an up-and-coming comedian, Frank De Lima.
She died two weeks before a planned holiday concert with the Local Divas. The concert instead became a tribute to the Divas’ late founder, called “This One’s For You, Loyal.”