Vinny Marino dies
of cancer at 61
He overcame drug addiction
and taught others
to do the same
OBITUARIESBy Mary Adamski
Vincent O. "Vinny" Marino, a former heroin addict who founded one of the state's most successful rehabilitation centers for substance abusers, died yesterday in California.
Marino, 61, who was diagnosed with liver cancer three years ago, had been in Optimum Health Institute in San Diego, a holistic treatment center, for two weeks.
His daughter Lila Marino- Camacho announced his death last night at a news conference at Habilitat, the residential treatment facility which marked its 29th anniversary last week.
"Habilitat was his life ... that is his legacy," said his daughter.
Among the memorabilia surrounding her in his office was a framed copy of a New York police mug shot of Marino from an arrest Oct. 20, 1965.
"He climbed from the degradation of addiction," Marino- Camacho said. "He went through the system several times ... it took him a long time to wake up."
Marino was the example of turning the worst into the best, Marino-Camacho said.
"He had a hard head, a big ego, he was very controlling, but he had a big heart."
Many lawmakers, social services and health agency officials and fund-raising organizations would recognize her characterization of the brash New Yorker.
He opened his facility in a two-bedroom Kailua house in 1970 and the community effort to evict him was just the beginning of numerous encounters with officialdom over licensing, financing and other issues.
The facility was moved in 1972 to the former Bigelow estate on Kaneohe Bay.
At its peak, there was a second Habilitat on Kaneohe State Hospital grounds.
There are currently 100 residents in the program, which combines vocational training and rehabilitative therapy.
His daughter said thousands have gone through the program "some have graduated and some, of course, haven't."
She said she was formerly on the staff of the facility and "I continue to live the Habilitat way ... get up every day and do the best you can."
His office reflects Marino's success, memorialized in a row of framed congratulatory proclamations from government and private agencies, and his thirst for celebrity, in photographs of Marino with entertainers, framed covers from his autobiographical books and clippings of lifetime highlights.
The desktop was reserved for photos of his wife, Vickie, who has been chief executive at Habilitat since his illness, daughters Victoria and Lila, and granddaughter Alicia.
Funeral arrangements are pending.