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Danny Kaopuiki's

Kama`aina Profile

October 2008

Leilani McCoy


Like Father, like Daughter........they both were he paionia (a pioneer, Hawaiian style)...........

Back in the "old days", the Father rode his horse all over the islands of Hawaii! It was his job as Director of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to observe operations of the sugar and pineapple plantations throughout the islands to ensure the plantations were complying with pertinent regulations. He and his horse created kahiki ala hele(new paths) in the kua`aina, the countryside of Hawaii in the 1930-late 1960's time era. He left his footprints on every island except Niihau and Kahoolawe. He also went to Cuba to observe, on horseback of course, plantation operations there.

While his kuleana (area of responsibility) was on the aina (land) in the countryside of Hawaii, his daughter's kuleana was in the papa lani (the air) where she was to create her own kahikiala hele as she became the first wahine radio "disc jockey" on KPOI-FM and first wahine Radio New Director (radio station KHLO in Hilo) on the Hawaiian air waves! Additionally, our Profile guest is acknowledged as the "inventor" of a telephone technique most of us have come to accept but dislike a lot: have you called a business telephone number and you get put on hold and music fills your ear while you are waiting? Guess whose idea that was? She was also the first wahine DJ for radio station KZAM in Seattle in 1975!

The Father's name was Floyd McCoy Sr and the daughter who followed in his he paionia footsteps is Leilani Virginia McCoy. Floyd and his wife Virginia moved to Hawaii in the mid-1930's, initially settling in the Keaukaha area on the Big Island. Virginia McCoy was also one of those "first to do it" types (the first woman to receive a Master's degree from the University of Washington). While Floyd rode the plains of Hawaii on his horse, Virginia was teaching school there.

Leilani McCoy

Leilani McCoy remembers fervently the days of her youth in Keaukaha. She was a little haole girl with curly blonde hair and a club foot who was informally hanai-ed by a Hawaiian family (the Kalawai ohana). While her Dad was off riding his horse and Mom was teaching school, Leilani was watched after by the Kalawai family and for the longest time, Leilani thought she was Hawaiian. Her earliest cultural shock came when a bunch of visiting tourists asked her what a haole girl like her was doing running around with the "local" kids. Ever since that moment, Leilani McCoy has accepted that she looks like a haole but that her soul is eternally that of a kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian)!

The McCoy family later moved to Honolulu where Leilani graduated from Kalani High School in 1967. After graduating from high school, Leilani started working at Honolulu radio station KKUA, doing station identification announcements. It was there that two of Hawaii's radio/entertainment Icons (Dick Weinwright and the highly admired and respected Tom Moffat) heard her voice, liked what they heard and started her on her professional radio career. When KPOI-FM was started in 1967, Leilani was hired as a D.J. for the station which then played mostly rock and roll music and Leilani easily fell into the role of "hippie wahine D.J.".

Leilani McCoy did the Hawaiian radio circuit (KKUA, KPOI, KHLO, KGMB) between 1967 and 1972 when she decided she needed a temporary change in her lifestyle. Her foremost thoughts were to go somewhere for a year, to a place where there was some snow with a good college and close enough to Hawaii to get home quickly if she wanted to. She picked the Pacific Northwest and moved to Seattle in 1973. She fell in love with Seattle and has been here since!

She attended the University of Washington for a few years but radio was in her blood and by 1975, she was back in the business (working at radio stations KZAM, KEZX, KQIN and finishing her last DJ gig at KZOK in 1984). Since that time, Leilani has been specializing in marketing and promotions, including a stint as Director of Audio Marketing for the world renowned Muzak corporation. Leilani is now working for Pacific Publishing and helped develop/publish the printed programs for the very successful September 7, 2008 "Live Aloha... A Hawaiian Cultural Festival" at the Seattle Center.

Leilani and her husband Bob Purnell live in the Seward Park area of Seattle. Leilani's daughter Ryhanna Gillespie and her husband Drew live in Seattle; Leilani's other daughter, Rebecca, lives in the San Francisco area.

Mahalo Leilani Virginia McCoy. You have indeed been a paionia in your profession, accomplishing some memorable milestones.....as significant is the fact that you have always acknowledged that who you are today was created back in those long ago days in Keaukaha, where sharing Aloha (as you have done since those days) is the only way of life for you!!!! Leilani McCoy............you da Man!!!

Until next time, be kind to each other.........me ke Aloha pumehana........Danny


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