Serenaders Perform for Celebration of Life

“Your music was so beautiful,” said a lady as she grabbed my hands to thank me after our participation in the Celebration of Life for my former boss Donald W. Reeser on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Piiholo Ranch in upcountry Maui.

Don Reeser was the Superintendent of Haleakalā National Park and hired me as his assistant in 2000. He is the reason my husband and I came home from Maryland after living and working for 27 years on the mainland.

It was nice to see familiar faces from the conservation community whom I knew long ago among the 150 people who attended the outdoors event. The day was cool with occasional blessings from heaven (light rain). Four speakers paid tribute to Don from the Rotary Club of Maui, National Park Service, the Friends of Haleakalā National Park, and Ka ‘Ohana ‘O Kalaupapa. The empty saddle tribute by the owner of Piiholo Ranch was also poignant. The running slide show that could be played with or without music was great, too. Don’s son Bryan spoke on behalf of the family with members who came from California, Oregon, Palau, and Maui.

I kept one of the numerous announcements in our local newspaper that read “Mahalo to everyone who filled his remarkable life with purpose, friendship, love and laughter.”

My husband and I played music for Don’s wife’s Celebration of Life in 2007 per his request and offered to play music for his. After the program, I hugged his daughter Cheryl and said, “Welcome to the club – as a daughter to daughter with both parents passed away – it’s not a club you want to join, but just is.”

Our songs with unique ‘ukulele strums for background music were:

  1. Days of My Youth – Latin
  2. My Yellow Ginger Lei – I Wanna Rest (requested)
  3. Waikiki – I Wanna Rest Variation
  4. Ulupalakua – ‘Ōlapa (requested)
  5. The Beauty of Mauna Kea – Bossa Nova (requested)
  6. Ka Makani Ka ‘Ili Aloha – Pick in 4
  7. Aloha Means – 2 Waltz

Our requested songs with unique ‘ukulele strums during the program were:

  1. Haleakalā – Pick in 4
  2. I’ll Remember You – Latin
  3. Hawai’i Aloha – Morse Code (all sing to close program)

The Hawaiian Serenaders – husband and wife duo of Richard Tom and Mele Fong – sing and play ‘ukulele and u-bass to a variety of Hawaiian, hapa haole, pop, and jazz tunes. They are artists with the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Statewide Cultural Extension Program, and have represented the state of Hawai’i in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Rich and Mele are both Hawai’i born and raised. Visit The Hawaiian Serenaders webpage to hear song samples, view photos, and read reviews.

You can also learn to play the ‘ukulele the unique Ukulele Mele Way from wherever you live!

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Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele


Mele Fong is a professional singer, song arranger, and master of multiple strumming styles for the 'ukulele. She is an experienced educator with over 50+ years experience playing the 'ukulele and entertaining worldwide. Mele performs with her husband in the duo "The Hawaiian Serenaders" and leads student groups. In 1996, the duo represented the State of Hawai'i in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mele and her husband Richard Tom were both born and raised on Oahu and now reside in Maui.