The names Louise Marston and Tahiti Nui are synonymous to Kaua‘i residents and visitors to the North Shore.
Marston passed away unexpectedly Thursday after a brief illness.
She leaves behind a legacy of aloha in a big way, just like the name of her restaurant-bar translates into English as “Big Tahiti.” Marston was arguably the best known woman on the North Shore, and hosted most visiting celebrities and just about every long-time resident of the North Shore at one time or another.
Her son Christian Marston is continuing to operate his mother’s famous restaurant and bar in Hanalei town.
“I’ll remember her most for her aloha and how she treated everybody the same,” he said in an interview with The Garden Island. “It didn’t matter if you were a nobody or the president. She welcomed everybody.”
Christian said his parents opened Tahiti Nui in the summer 1964.
“My dad – Bruce Truesdale Marston – was from Pasadena, and met my mom in Tahiti,” he said.
The couple came to Kaua‘i because of a visa problem. Christian’s father was a Lt. Colonel in World War II and visited Tahiti on r&r following the battle of Saipan in the South Pacific during World War II.
“Every six months he had to renew his visa, and after about 20 years he got tired of doing that,” Christian said. “He found a place at Anini and built a house there, it reminded him of Tahiti.”
Louise Marston met her husband in Papeete, the capital of the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia. Her home island was Tubuai, an outlier hundreds of miles south of Tahiti Island in a chain known as the Austral Islands. She spoke Tahitian, French and English and Tahitian was her first language. She frequently played Tahitian guitar and sang lively Tahitian songs at North Shore celebrations and at her restaurant.
“He wanted a bar and she wanted a curio shop, where she could sell items from Tahiti,” Christian said of the origins of the Tahiti Nui. “It evolved into a restaurant.”
Christian said traditional pot luck dinners held at Tahiti Nui on Friday nights, where Louise covered up the pool tables and set a dinner table in the 1970s, led to holding lu‘au nights for visitors and local residents which featured authentic Hawaiian and Tahitian foods, plus entertainment by musicians, singers and hula dancers from Ha‘ena, Hanalei and other North Shore towns.
The formula worked well, and Louise kept the South Seas spirit of Tahiti, and down-home flavor of old Hanalei, alive through her almost 40 years of running the establishment.
Christian moved to Kaua‘i in 1967. His Brother Coco Hauata still lives in Tahiti.
“I’m going to try to keep it the same,” Christian said of the future of restaurant and bar.
A memorial service for Louise is planned on Saturday, October 18 at the Wai‘oli Hui‘ia Church in Hanalei from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.