When people describe Malani Bilyeu, there is a commonality in their words.
Loving family man.
Now, many of those same people are rallying to raise money to pay for Bilyeu’s funeral services following his death on Thursday at the age of 69.
Kauai’s Dickie Chang knew Bilyeu more than 30 years. The two were close friends.
“He was my brother,” Chang said.
Bilyeu and Chang recently spent time together, including on Christmas Eve. Bilyeu performed at Breath of Life Christian Ministries’ Christmas Eve services.
“He was a great guy,” Chang said. “Humorous, fun-loving. He loved his family, he loved his wife, he loved his music, he loved Kauai.”
Bilyeu was a founding member of the legendary band, “Kalapana” and a brilliant solo performer. Yet, despite his gifts, he was down to earth, Chang said.
His death, he added, is a big loss for the state and Kauai, and he will be missed.
“He was an original. He can’t be impersonated. His voice was unique,” Chang said.
A gofundme campaign is underway, with a goal of $28,000, to pay for funeral services. One will be on Oahu, and one is tentatively set for Jan. 11 on Kauai.
So far, about $6,400 has been donated.
“We are always listening to Malani and Kalapana literally everyday,” wrote Gary and Helen Suan/Smatlak on the gofundme site. “His songs have inspired and touched our hearts in many ways. We have gone to may live concerts and gigs for years and he has always been a positive force on stage. We got a chance to meet him backstage a couple times and he was so gracious and courteous. We miss and love him dearly. Our prayers go out to his family. Aloha Brother Malani, Rest in Peace!”
Nancy Lewis, who also donated to the fund, wrote this: “I love Malani, have known Kalapana since 1976 and I love them all dearly. He was such a loving and grateful man.
Bilyeu is survived by his wife Crystal, his seven children, grandchildren, his aunt Eva, and many friends and fans.
“As an entertainer Malani had no medical plan, retirement or pension,” wrote Donna Kim, fund organizer. “Like so many artists, he lived from gig to gig.
“Please kokua and help fund his medical, funeral and memorial expenses in Honolulu and on Kauai thru this Memorial Fund. Let’s remember Malani and give him our fondest Aloha!”
Rep. Jimmy Tokioka said it was an honor for the Kauai state delegation to honor Bilyeu and Kalapana on the floor of the State House for a life achievement in Hawaiian contemporary music in 2010.
“His lyrics will be with us forever,” Tokioka wrote. “Malani was a man who would give you the shirt off his back.”