Kanoe Miller


From The Honolulu Advertiser Friday, September 27, 2002

Miss Hawai'i '73 made name for herself and others, too

By Wade Kilohana Shirkey
Longtime friend Robert Cazimero jokingly calls her "Mrs. Miller" on the phone but she's Kanoelehua Kaumeheiwa when they entertain on stage.

But for legions of babies named after the graceful beauty who was crowned Miss Hawai'i in 1973, she, like them, is just Kanoe.

Since her reign, "people come up all the time to say they've named their daughters" now Gen Xers nearing their 30s after her, she says, with a bit of astonishment even now.

She was named after an aunt, whose mom Kanoe's grandmother was in the throes of childbirth, when she spied outside the window a gentle, early morning mist ka noe falling on the vivid red bloom of the lehua blossom.

It wasn't always a name Kanoe appreciated. In the early '50s at Manoa Elementary School, she was the only one with a Hawaiian first name. "Everyone else was a Randy, Amy, Suzie or Debbie," she said.

In a largely haole and Japanese student body, during roll call, the Chinese-Hawaiian-German child's name, Kanoelehua Kaumeheiwa,"always came after Katahara or Suzie Katz," she said. Those were easy names for teachers to pronounce, in a day that preceded this generation's reverence for things Hawaiian.

"The first day of class," she joked, teachers would breeze through the attendance list only to stumble when they came to Kanoe, let alone Kaumeheiwa.

"They'd just BUTCHER it," Kanoe said.

Kanoe Miller

"I'd (whine) to my dad: 'Why do I HAVE this name?'... I was actually ashamed," she said ashamed now of that childhood sentiment.

Her German/Hawaiian father would speak of culture and family legacy: "Stand straight and be proud."

"(So) I'd ask kids to call me Christine" her parents' other choice for her name.

When her parents found out, she said with a grimace, "I got good lickin'."

By the time she reached her junior year, classmates were so accustomed to the roll-call routine that they'd call out, "She's here, she's here (already)."

Now the noted Halekulani hula dancer and graduate of Auntie Ma'iki Aiu Lake is best known by her easily pronounced married name, Kanoe Miller.

"I love my husband (John, airline pilot) dearly and was honored to take his name," she said. "Robert (Cazimero) questioned the decision," she said, of his seemingly sensing an abandonment of cultural pride along with her Hawaiian last name. "(But) in my heart, I'm Mrs. Miller," said Kanoe, still beautiful at 48.

Consequently, he and others now refer to her lovingly as "Mrs. Miller" on the phone but by her maiden name professionally, she said.

Nowadays, she's recognized from the Halekulani stage to the corner market, where she's invariably without makeup and "in my boro-boros. Weekends, I'm Kanoe, but in makeup and heels, friends don't know me," she joked.

"So wot? Goin' work, eh?!" they chide. Kanoe, Alan, Sonny and Scott

"Patricia (Lei Anderson Murray, Miss Hawai'i 1962) told me: 'Once a Miss Hawai'i, always a Miss Hawai'i,'" Kanoe said. "It's true. You have to keep up a certain standard, how you handle your life, how you treat people." The honor, she said "comes with a (lifetime) responsibility you must always behave honorably, morally ... and humbly.

"You must live up to what people expect. They measure you by that 'Miss Hawai'i standard' and it's a high standard."

Along those lines, she said, "Whenever I hear someone has named their little precious gift of God their child after me, I find that to be the ultimate honor, whether the person knows me or not."

She said that when she comes across another Kanoe, she always uses the occasion to strike up "niele" conversation, modestly never divulging her identity and never quite knowing what the outcome will be.

At The Gap recently, a salesperson's nametag proclaimed her as a Kanoe.

"What a wonderful name," said the original Kanoe.

"Yeah," said the young Gen Xer, rolling her eyes. "My mother named me after some old Miss Hawai'i."

Kanoe graces the outdoor stage of the Halekulani Hotel Monday-Saturday nights from 5:15 p.m. until 8:15 p.m.