Hawaii broadcasting legend Jacqueline Leilani “Skylark” Rossetti died of renal failure early this afternoon at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu. She was 65.
A 1971 graduate of Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama in Honolulu, she studied art at San Francisco City College and began her education in her occupation-to-be on the college’s radio station. After returning home in the early 1970s, she worked on air at KNDI-AM in Honolulu before becoming the midday personality in a legendary air staff at Honolulu’s KCCN-AM that included Kimo Kahoano and the late Krash Kealoha.
Rossetti called herself “The Honolulu Skylark” after an early Hawaii airplane, later shortening the name to simply “Skylark.” Broadcasting Hawaiian music, she was integral in the rise of Hawaii superstars such as the Sunday Manoa, the Brothers Cazimero and the Makaha Sons of Niihau.
With a mellifluous voice and flawless delivery, Rossetti also was in demand as an emcee and commercial voice-over artist.
“Bruddah, there will never be another voice like that,” Kahoano said this afternoon. “There are a lot of people want to imitate that, but she was the original Skylark. And there’ll never be another like her.”
As a person, Kahoano said, Rossetti “felt very strongly about things.”
“She wasn’t afraid to express what she felt was important for people to know. And she wasn’t going to back off. She was going to be Skylark. She was a very proud woman,” he explained.
With Kahoano and Kealoha, Rossetti was a co-founder of the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards recognizing Hawaii’s music and musicians. She won her own Hoku statuettes in 1993 and 1996, and the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. In addition, she was recognized as Outstanding Hawaiian Woman of the Year in 1984 and Broadcaster of the Year in 1991.
Rossetti, Kahoano and Kealoha also were part of the Class of 2017 inductees into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.
“She, Krash and I all got the award on the same day. To have her kids there and her, and Krash’s wife and the daughters was truly special,” Kahoano said.
In May 1990, Rossetti helped put KCCN-FM 100 on the air and its popularity was immediate, becoming No. 1 in ratings within a year. In 1992, she moved to Hilo and worked first for KWXX-FM and later for KAPA-FM.
Rossetti also had a longstanding association with the Merrie Monarch Festival, first as co-host with Kahoano of the statewide television broadcast on Honolulu television station KITV, and later, as the stadium announcer for the festival’s Wednesday night Ho‘ike.
“We got to work solidly together in the 1980s, and then she came back as the stadium announcer for the exhibition night for many years,” Kahoano said. She and KWXX’s Ku‘ehu Mauga were to share Ho‘ike emcee duties next month, Merrie Monarch President Luana Kawelu told the Tribune-Herald earlier this month.
Rossetti also emceed the Queen Lili‘uokalani Festival in Hilo yearly, as well as the annual Gabby Pahinui Kanikapila in Waimanalo, Oahu.
News of Rossetti’s passing spread quickly via social media.
“Mahalo from the bottom of my heart for always holding Hawaiian music in your heart. Always looking out for our entertainers. May Akua keep you safe in his arms,” Hoku award winning vocalist Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom posted on Facebook.
“I am heartbroken that she has left us, but feel so blessed for the love and friendship we shared for over 40 years,” added KPUA’s Ken Hupp, who was a newscaster at KCCN-AM in the 1970s. “The coming days will bring forth accounts of her role as a leader in the Hawaiian music and cultural renaissance that began in the 1970s and continues to this very day, her love of the music and culture; and her passion for preserving and promoting it. The musicians, whose careers she nurtured; the broadcasters she mentored, and the growth in popularity of events like the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards and the Merrie Monarch Festival are but a few of the numerous testimonials to her impact on Hawai’i’s music and culture which will live on.”
Rossetti is survived by longtime companion Kimo La‘au; her children, Imaka Lindsey, Kilohana Lindsey and Makana Rossetti-Ota; and six grandchildren.
Services are pending.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.