My sister and her life was a gift. Desiree Aimee-Lynn Ku’uwehu (Bartels) Numanga came into this world on September 21, 1971 at Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu, Oahu. My Grandma Virginia (Kealoha) Bartels, named her. A few months later, Desiree, myself and my mom were on a plane soming to San Diego to begin a new life. I’m sure that Desiree, although just an infant knew she would return to her island home.
My cousins and I began to take hula lessons from Aunty Kathy Gore; Desiree would come with us to practice and watch. Desiree conscientiously watched us learn our ami, hela, and kaholo’s. Then one day, she stood up and joined us all in our hula lessons and that was the beginning to her love of hula. I remember her being the star of the show, the audience loving her and money always being thrown her way (which made her little hands and hips move faster).
A student of Kumu Kathly Gore Stanley and Halau O Heali’i / Heali’i’s Polynesian Review from 1974 to 1996, she performed in many shows, at retirement homes, luaus, parties; she was also a student for a short period with Aunty Mena Aranio and Aunty Jean Kalani. She held the title of Miss Hui O Hawaii of San Diego in 1988. In October 1990 she competed in the Miss Hawaii of California, Voice of Hawaii Pageant and was chosen by the contestants and judges as Miss Congeniality. It was such an honor for her to have been given this title. In her farewell address in 1991 she writes “Having been given this honor has not only strengthened my love for the Hawaiian culture and for its people, but, it has also made me a better Hawaiian”.
Desiree obtained an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising at FIDM San Diego in 1992 and managed several boutiques in East County and Downtown San Diego. She eventually ventured back to her island home in 1996. During the years to follow she married Nga Numanga; she blessed the Ohana with my first nephew and only niece, Tamanui and Pohai Kealoha; she started teaching students of many ages her love of hula and formed No Kealoha O Hula; she worked for City and County of Honolulu Parks/Recreation as a Tiny Tots Teacher as well as teaching Hula.
It was being a wife, a mother, a teacher that gave her most joy in life. She was creative and had a laugh and smile that lit up an entire room. She loved to listen in on peoples conversations, and could start a conversation with complete strangers. She had the best traits of both my mom and dad and she was loved and adored by so many. She was the best sister and often was the mediator between us three girls. She was understanding and kind and had a heart of gold.
The best are always taken too soon. Having fought a courageous fight for almost 2 years, Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer took my beloved sister on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 1155 p.m. Desiree was surrounded by her immediate Ohana, my dad, and my baby sister and her family.
I know my sister is here in spirit to celebrate the two contestants, Rachel Gonzales and Jania Nichols and she would wish each of them the best of luck and to just enjoy the moment. Mahalo to the HOHSD Board of Directors for honoring my sister, my Ohana was truly touched and blessed.
Miss and/or Mr. Hui will continue the Hui's efforts to create a Spirit of Aloha in the community while promoting the cultural heritage of Hawaii. This year, the scholarship has been named in honor of past Miss Hui, Desiree Numanga, beloved friend and ʻohana to many Hui O Hawaiʻi members. It is our hope that Desiree’s beautiful spirit and name will continue to live on through future Miss Hui O Hawaii’s who carry the title. Any donation, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated and will be well-invested in the future success of a deserving young woman. We hope that you will consider supporting our efforts in providing financial assistance to our future titleholder, MAHALO for your generosity.
Donations can be made via USPS at:
Hui O Hawaii of San Diego
P.O. Box 1668
Spring Valley, CA 91979
or via PayPal with the link below.