Monday, March 19, 2001

'BUD' SMYSER / 1920-2001

Bud Smyser: Took part in
some of isle's greatest debates

editor helped
shape Hawaii

>>Smyser a consumate newsman
>>Today's 'Hawaii's World' his last column

By Treena Shapiro

In a journalism career spanning 55 years, Adam A. "Bud" Smyser was at the center of many of the great debates touching Hawaii, from the push for statehood, to the acceptance of nisei war veterans, to the issues of physician-assisted suicide and dying with dignity.

During his career at the Star-Bulletin, Smyser was a reporter, city editor, managing editor, editor and editor of the editorial pages . After he retired in 1983, he continued to write his column "Hawaii's World" as a contributing editor.

Smyser died at 4:25 a.m. today at Queen's Medical Center after a fall Saturday morning led to a brain hemorrhage. Honoring his wishes as an advocate of dying with dignity, Smyser's family chose to keep him off life-support systems when surgeons were unable to remove a blood clot from his brain. He was 80.

Corky Cartoon of Bud Smyser

"Fortunately for Bud, he did not need any physician assistance," said Dr. Norm Goldstein, who served with Smyser on a panel appointed by the governor on Living and Dying with Dignity. "He was just basically sleeping and that was the way it was supposed to be."

Helen Chapin, author of "Shaping History, The Role of Newspapers in Hawaii, described Smyser as "pretty fearless."

"Bud never really backed off of an argument or fight and he was usually on the right side," she said. She cites as an example his "epic struggles" with Frank Fasi, who during his 1970 campaign for Honolulu mayor, banned Smyser and the Star-Bulletin from his news conferences. Smyser won when he contested Fasi's actions in court.

In 1988, Smyser was one of the strongest voices on the Star-Bulletin's editorial board in its decision to endorse Fasi.

"I loved the guy, I hated the guy, but I tell you when it comes down to the bottom line he was a good guy for the state of Hawaii and the people who live in it," Fasi said.

Smyser took up many causes throughout his 55-year career, jumping into the statehood debate soon after arriving in Hawaii in 1946. He also fought to free Hansen's Disease patients from forced isolation, to keep Hawaii off daylight savings time, to rename Columbus Day Discoverer's Day, and to bring no-fault insurance to Hawaii in 1974. Long before the Star-Bulletin published "Broken Trust," Smyser began questioning the management and governance of Kamehameha Schools.

A tireless advocate for openness in government, 30 years ago Smyser helped found the Honolulu Community Media Council, a watchdog group for Oahu media. Chapin, who also served on the council, said of Smyser, "he's always been a First Amendment rights kind of person."

Ah Jook Ku, another media council founder, said she had been one of three Asians working at the Star-Bulletin when Smyser was hired. At a time when minorities had difficulty finding professional work, "he was the one always trying to promote good will and end racial discrimination," she said.

Smyser was born in York, Pennsylvania on Dec. 18, 1920. He graduated from Pennsylvania State College (now University) with the Sigma Delta Chi award as Penn State's outstanding journalism graduate in 1941.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Smyser enrolled in the Navy's V-7 officer training program and was called to active duty as an ensign in December 1942. Over the next three years, he participated in the invasions of Sicily, Saipan, Palau, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf and Okinawa, and in the post-war occupations of Korea and North China.

In Jan. 1946, Smyser and his wife Betty moved to Hawaii. While Smyser made a name for himself at the Star-Bulletin, Betty worked on the television show "Conversations" for almost 25 years until she died of cancer in 1983. They had two children, Heidi Olivia and Avery Richard. In 1984, Smyser married a longtime friend of his and Betty's, Doris "Dee" Hetherington Prather. Smyser and Dee had met when they started working at the Star-Bulletin the same year.

Always looking out for what was best for Hawaii, Smyser envisioned the Pacific state as a bridge to Asia and saw the development of Hawaii as a global marketplace.

Recently, the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a group of nisei WWII veterans started a drive to have Smyser granted an honorary degree from the University of Hawaii.

"We thought it was time that Bud was recognized for all that he does for Hawaii and its people," said Ted Tsukiyama, noting that the celebrated 100th battalion made Smyser an honorary member because of his support of nisei veterans.

Gov. Ben Cayetano appointed Smyser to the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Living and Dying with Dignity in 1997. Cayetano said, "for more than a half-century, Bud has been an outstanding citizen of our island community.

"The high standards he set for himself as a journalist won him the respect and admiration of people from all walks of life. Bud loved Hawaii deeply and even in his golden years continued to be very involved in the difficult issues facing our state. Our prayers go to his wife Dee and the Smyser family in these very difficult days."

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