For this month’s article, we would like to recognize a true champion to the Polynesian Cultural Center, Tausilinu’u David Hannemann, who passed away on October 9th at the age of 92. Uncle David has been our friend, our adviser, and our spiritual example for so many years.
Tausilinu’u David Hannemann (fondly known as Uncle David) was born in Apia, Samoa in 1926. After immigrating to the US in 1946, and marrying his sweetheart, Carolyn Harline, David was invited to become the Center’s first paid employee in 1963. He would work for many years, and then leave for other ventures, but somehow he would always be pulled back.
We wish to honor David the way he would have wanted it – through the love of his ‘ohana at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The following are some wonderful memories generously presented by colleagues and friends from the Center. They outline the qualities that Uncle David utilized to inspire both guests and staff:
“David was a motivator”
Bobby Akoi first came to the Center in 1983 and now serves as the Director of Protocol & Community Relations. “David was a motivator”, he shared. “That was his gift. He could move people to do the right things. He knew how to take care of VIPs and special guests. This is his forté. No one in the world can do it better than David. He is just the master in protocol.”
Les Steward, a graduate of the Church College of Hawaii (CCH) worked over 40 years at the Center. He shared that “David was truly a mentor to me and many others. He always took the time to teach principles … (all of which were) applicable to the Polynesian Cultural Center’s mission of Preserving and portraying the cultures, arts and crafts of Polynesia; Contributing to the educational growth of all people; and Demonstrating and radiating a spirit of love and service to all who visited the Center.”
John Muaina, recently retired VP of Human Resources who worked with David for many, many years, reminisced that Uncle David “would get quite emotional when expressing the importance of doing one’s best at all times.”He stressed the need to remember that we were representing the Center and our culture to the world, and that people from around the world would base their opinions on.”
David made “you feel important”
Eric Workman, our Executive VP of Sales and Marketing shared that Uncle David always had the ability to make “you feel important, that you matter, and that you belong….”
“Every time I was around him I could feel the sincerity of his love as he placed his arms around me like a father to his son,” Leilua Logo Apelu reflected who retired as Chief of Operations in 2017.
Regina Pasi, who works in the Tahiti Village remembers that Uncle David was “always there to pay respect and recognize you. He was a visionary man….. I remember when he retired, that he came around early in the morning (to where I was cooking the coconut bread) just to thank me for my hard work. What a humble man.”
Steve Laulu, our Cultural Islands Director, expressed what was clearly in Uncle David’s heart. “What David tells you is so uplifting, genuine and true to what he is. There is no pretension…. He has really been a great example of always doing your best – so very genuine in his love of the people.”
“David was our prayer warrior”
Larry Yuen, who serves as our Chief Accountant recalled that former PCC president Les Moore placed Hannemann “in charge of the weather.”
Delsa Moe, our VP of Cultural Presentations has known Uncle David since she was a student at BYU-Hawaii. She explained further. “Every single important function where we have needed to have good weather, we put Uncle David in charge. Once we put Uncle David in charge, we had exactly the kind of weather we needed.”
Bobby Akoi added that “David was the prayer warrior of our weather. I’ve seen miracles happen time after time when David would pull me down to the ground and start petitioning to Heavenly Father to open the [cloudy] skies.”
Shortly after coming to work at the Center, Jim Hopkinson, former Chief Financial Officer shared an experience that really impressed him. “I witnessed David at his finest. As a mighty storm approached Oahu, and the rains had already begun, David led the Officer Team in a prayer ……. that the storm would pass us by and we would be able to safely host the guests who were coming that day. Shortly after the prayer ended, so did the rain…and we enjoyed a bright sunshiny day!”
“He was an organized historian”
David’s attention to detail made him invaluable as our ‘PCC Historian’. His office was a mass of boxes, pictures and charts. For the average person, it would be overwhelming to even walk into the room. But David knew what was there and heaven help you if you tried to move anything without his direction.
One of his most amazing traits was his razor sharp memory. He could recollect names, events, dates, and detailed information from decades ago.
“He was an organized historian,” shared Mike Foley, a retired senior PCC marketing communications manager. Mike was “… always impressed with his strong sense of history, and how he preserved so much PCC minutiae starting from day-one. His collection was quite amazing.”
John Muaina, shared that “it was David who helped develop much of the [tour] guide’s dialog. In fact, he developed most, if not all of the [village] dialog.”
“David showed us how to lighten up”
Without fail, it is Uncle David’s keen sense of humor that everyone remembers.
Les Steward shared that “David showed us how to lighten up and have a little fun as we dealt with operational and sometimes personal difficulties.”
Mike Foley adds that “Uncle David was particularly crafty at getting others outside his own departments to do work for him. For example, he would ask me or others for help on a project, and before we knew it, we were suddenly in charge of his projects, and he had moved on to something else.”
Bobby Akoi couldn’t help but smile as he recalled that “David was also a jokester. He loved to scare employees, whether it was hiding around the corner or speeding up to Marquesas Village on his cart. He loved taking people on this joy ride, for most of them it was their last time they would ride with David.”
Bobby wasn’t the only one who brought up Uncle David’s love of speed while driving electrical carts. In fact, most of the people interviewed had their own harrowing stories. It seems that the man had no reservations when he got behind the wheel.
But it didn’t stop there. In Hawaii, it is common practice to remove your shoes when entering homes or when you wanted to relax. Delsa Atoa Moe pointed out that Uncle David “would hide the shoes.”
Memorable to all was his gleeful laugh, which came across as a high pitched ‘hee heeeeee’. It let you know that he was certainly up to something!
“Uncle David was famous for his tricks”, explained Mike Foley. “Many people know about his wild cart rides, which I experienced several times; but I also liked another one he used to do. Whenever Uncle David met me or anyone else who spoke Samoan or Hawaiian (while) he was personally escorting guests around the Center, he would always introduce them to us using an outrageous Samoan or Hawaiian name. Of course, he was trying to ‘crack us up,’ while his guests didn’t know any better.”
Janice Morgan, a retired secretary of the Center who often worked with Uncle David noted “…more than once did I see him jump up on a table and do a dance!”
Bobby Akoi revealed that Uncle David “was a really great dancer as he would show sometimes by climbing on the boardroom table and tap dancing. Those who were privy to see that were lucky. He didn’t do it all the time.”
Luse Tapusoa Magalei who worked with him during the early years at the Center stated “I was so sad when he left. He was the funniest boss I ever had, and he made me laugh all the time. He was a good man. I liked him and enjoyed working with him. He made people happy.”
“David was a respected leader”
Bobby Akoi declared that “…a great word to describe David would be “meticulous! He would do things over and over and over again until he felt it was right or pono. That often meant staying way after midnight to complete the task.”
Delsa Moe added that David was always “an immaculate dresser.” She noted that this included his beautifully polished white shoes.
David was a “respected leader”, explained Janice Morgan who “represented PCC well for years”.
“We feel humble and grateful”
Mike Foley expressed what made Uncle David so loved by sharing that David “was always full of personality, energy, charm and innovative ideas, and we all loved him.”
Alfred Grace, President of the Polynesian Cultural Center, summed up our feelings best:
“To say that we will miss his presence and influence is an understatement. His impact in our community and throughout the world is immeasurable and we feel humble and grateful for the dedication and service he provided all of us at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Tausilinu’u David Hanneman’s legacy is woven through every inch of fabric that is the PCC. We offer our heartfelt prayers to his loving family along with our assistance and support in the days ahead.”
Aloha Oe’, dear Uncle David. Mahalo for all the love you gave. Til’ we meet again.
Special thanks to Mike Foley for assisting with interviews and Rebecca Sabalones for assistance in writing this article.
Other articles regarding T. David Hannemann can be found at:
Do you have a favorite of Uncle David story?
Please post a comment
so we can all share in the memories of one of our favorite PCC legends!
Nina Jones, a mainland gal from way back, is now a transplanted Islander. With her husband of 41 years, she has lived in La’ie since serving a mission at the Polynesian Cultural Center from 2014 – 2016. She is now an employee of the Center, working in the Marketing Dept. Her hobbies include swimming, traveling, studying and writing about what she is learning from the various Polynesian cultures. Her blogs focus on their history, beliefs, practices and – as an added bonus – delicious food! To her, Polynesia is not just a place to visit, it is a way to live and she is very honored to be able to be a part of their amazing world.