Rhoda Elizabeth Armstrong Hackler, Ph.D., historian, researcher, writer, and teacher in Hawai'i for 43 years, died on July 7. She was 84.
Hackler was a lecturer in Hawai'ian history at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and a prolific writer on historical subjects, including Hawai’ian history and culture, Asian art and the Episcopal Church in Hawaii.
An active member of Church of the Holy Nativity and later of St. Clement’s Church, both in Honolulu, Hackler served on vestries, Diocesan Council, and various boards and commissions in the Diocese of Hawai'i.
She served on a variety of charitable boards, including the Honolulu Academy of Arts Guild, Hawai'i Opera Theatre, Hawai'i Army Museum Association, Daughters of Hawai'i, the Caledonian Society, and the English Speaking Union. She was president of the Society of Asian Art in Hawai'i and also of the Hawaiian Historical Society, and a co-founder of the Historic Hawai’i Foundation.
Rhoda Armstrong was born in New York City on November 7, 1923. Due to “disciplinary difficulties,” she attended three different high schools, and was told that she was “not college material,” according to biographical information supplied by her colleague, Willis H.A Moore of Chaminade University, Honolulu. After graduation, she joined the W.A.C. in 1943 as a private. By the time she was discharged in 1945, she had reached the rank of lieutenant, learned to fly an airplane, and served in the Pacific theatre of World War II.
She married Windsor Greg Hackler, a foreign service official, in 1952 and with him served in Arabia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Canada, and in Washington, D.C. in the State Department. Windsor retired in 1965, and the couple moved to Honolulu, where he taught Asian Studies at the University of Hawai'i. The Junior League of Honolulu asked Rhoda to assist with the restoration of 'Iolani Palace, which would soon be vacated by the state Government in favor of a new capitol. She directed research for the project, and became a director (later director emeritus) of the Friends of 'Iolani Palace, which succeeded in having the "Royal Palace of the Kalakaua Dynasty"—the only authentic royal palace in the United States—restored, refurnished, and reopened.
When in her 50’s, Hackler entered the University of Hawai'i as an undergraduate, building on courses she took at various colleges during her overseas travels. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then began doctoral studies, completing her Ph.D. in Hawaiian history in 1978. She served for a time as the editor of the Hawai’ian Journal of History, and was author or editor of a number of books and articles, including ‘Iolani Palace, The Story of Scots in Hawai’I (editor), History of Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital, R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill: Its History and Restoration, Koa Furniture of Hawai’I, The Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, History of the Church of the Holy Nativity, Collectors’ Odyssey, Treasure from the Society of Asian Art in Hawai’i, and The Queen’s Quilt.
Survivors include Hackler’s two sisters, Jean Cornwall Kanstein of Berkeley, California, and Alexandra Armstrong of Washington, D.C.; her son, Jeffrey M. Hackler (Karen); two grandsons and a great-granddaughter.
Services were held at St. Clement’s Church on July 12.