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Family and friends remember Kamaile Nihipali for her life of service and the joy she shared though her love of music

Kamaile Nihipali by Monique Saenz.jpeg
Photo by Monique Saenz

Music was one of the focal points of the memorial service for BYU–Hawaii alumna and longtime university employee Valerie Kaliko’okamaile Nihipali on May 26 at the Laie Hawaii North Stake Center.

Both a pianist and organist who played at Church services and events, members of her ohana said Nihipali had a love of music, her family, serving others and God. She passed away at home in Laie in her sleep on May 7. She was 58. Her husband, Duke Nihipali, also a BYUH alumnus and former university staff member, preceded her in passing.

As part of the celebration of her life, family members sang two Primary songs, “Love Is Spoken Here” and “If The Savior Stood Beside Me,” the congregation sang “Beautiful Zion” and “Love One Another,” and at the conclusion of the memorial, her aunty, Ellen Gay Dela Rosa lead those assembled in “Aloha ‘Oe.”

Courtesy Nihipali family

Her aunty and local Kumu Hula Sunday Mariteragi read a poem she said she felt inspired to write shortly after Nihipali’s passing. She said she couldn’t sleep and thought about all the things Nihipali might want said and the words came to her including the lyrics Mariteragi wrote about her niece to the tune of a local song, “Maile Lei.”

“Kamaile has a way of getting things done,” Mariteragi said, “and these are her words that came into my mind about her service to others.”

Part of the poem reads:

“Your strength in life brought others to see,

Your talents, blessings, whatever it be.

But, more than the joy of wanting to be,

You always put the Lord first with your testimony.

Kamaile, your lei a beautiful true vine,

A lei of aloha, always in our hearts and mind.”

Then Mariteragi sang the next verse of the poem:

“Maile lai, lovely maile lei,

You weave your magic round the world, come what may.

Everyday in your subtle way,

You share your Spirit of Devine aloha, Maile lei.”

Courtesy Nihipali family

Her younger sister, Jelarie Fitzgerald, gave the eulogy at Nihipali’s service. She said Nihipali was born at Kapiolani Hospital on April 16, 1964, and grew up going to Laie Elementary, graduated from Kahuku High School, earned a bachelor’s degree from BYUH and married in 1985 her high school sweetheart. She said Nihipali loved to sing and dance hula, and was even the drum major for Kahuku High School’s marching band.

Nihipali’s daughter, Karen Lavaki, also talked about her mother’s love of music, playing the piano and singing in the ward choir. “The testimony she has of the gospel can be felt through all the hymns and Primary songs.”

Fitzgerald noted her sister’s longtime service in the Church, BYUH, the Boy Scouts of America helping young men become Eagle Scouts, and her family of five children that includes two extraordinary daughters with special needs who brought joy to her, her husband and their family.

“I am grateful for my sister and her example of faith, hope and charity,” said Fitzgerald.

Lavaki added her mother believed Heavenly Father has a plan for all his children and especially her two sisters. “She loved the gospel, loved to serve, loved the ward, her family and all her friends.” Lavaki said because of her mother, she knows her family will be together again and can be a forever family.

“I am going to miss her. She was able to withstand all the trials for many years,” Lavaki continued saying because of her mother’s example, she would “exercise the faith she taught me and endure to the end like she did.”

Courtesy Nihipali family

Nihipali’s bishop, Luke Moffat, said despite issues with her health, she “always had this sweet spirit.” He said when he would go to visit her, she would tell him she didn’t need anything, but instead, would send him off with baby blankets she had made to give to new mothers in the ward.

Laie Hawaii North Stake President and BYUH’s Operation Vice President and Chief Information Officer Kevin Schlag said he has known Nihipali for years and worked with her at the university. He said the Savior stood beside her through all she has been through and is now standing beside her family too. “There is a god, and we are all here on earth to progress and become like him.” Schlag added Christ is central to God’s plan because he made it possible for people to repent and be resurrected.

Schlag said while Nihipali’s family and friends mourn her passing, that pain can be swallowed up in knowing “Kamaile and all of us will live gain.” He urged people to not put changing the things they need change in their lives and to encourage the people they love to do what is right as well.

Courtesy Kamaile Nihipali

Local Area Authority Elder Voi R. Taeoalii also spoke at Nihipali’s service and said his oldest daughter is married to Nihipali’s youngest brother. He said at times like this, faith in Christ is all people have to help them and counseled people to “look to god and live” and to “let god prevail” in their lives. He added now is not the time to turn from god because god knows each person individually and will help them if they “pray for his love to lift them up. He needs you, and you need him.”

Taeoalii continued, “I pray for Kamaile’s family that they will feel the love of the Savior.” He said as her family and friends support and serve each other, they will in turn become more like the Savior, Jesus Christ.