Thursday, January 17, 2002


WWII vet served on BOE
and state court benches

By Pat Gee

Edwin Haruo Honda, a retired Circuit and District Court judge and state education chairman, died Jan. 8 following a long illness. He was 79.

Born in Peahi, Maui, he was part of the first graduating class of Baldwin High School in 1940, where he was student government chief justice. He attended the University of Hawaii-Manoa until World War II interrupted his studies.

As a member of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy, France and Germany, "he didn't expect to come home alive," according to his son, Mark T. Honda, an attorney in Wailuku.

Mark Honda said his father felt that by going to war, "he went to hell and came back and that what the rest his life had to offer would be a picnic."

After the war he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School under the GI Bill. During the mid-1950s, as part of the Democratic revolution in politics, Honda ran unsuccessfully for the territorial House of Representatives.

In the 1960s he served as chairman of the Board of Education and was appointed director of regulatory agencies by Gov. John A. Burns.

He served as District Court judge from 1974 to 1984, and on the Circuit Court bench from 1984 to 1990, when he retired.

Twenty-two years his junior, Circuit Judge Marie Milks said Honda was "like a second father to me." They had a "special relationship" in which Honda acted as confidante and mentor.

"He was always so thoughtful; really cute, too, very endearing ... so much like my dad," she said. They became "kindred spirits" in 1984 when they were both appointed to the Circuit Court on March 16 and Honda took her under his wing, according to Milks.

Milks said Honda talked often "about loyalty and the honor of judges, that it was an honor to be serving in government. ... He didn't like it when people weren't straight. He hated any lack of integrity."

Mark Honda said his father rarely spoke about his experiences during World War II but, to help his grandsons with their history projects, finally disclosed "the horror and shock" of seeing victims of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. The released prisoners were starving, "walking skeletons," but Honda's commanding officer forbade his troops to give them any food because of limited rations. When asked if any members of the 442nd disobeyed the order, Honda said, "Local people always share their food," according to his son.

His compassion for these prisoners was extended years later to the homeless in downtown Honolulu, and he often spoke of his wish to do more to help them, according to Milks and his son.

Mark Honda said his father was known as a "compassionate, fair and patient judge, often explaining his decisions to the young lawyers."

Private services will be held Saturday in Honolulu.

Besides his son, Honda is survived by wife Carol Chiyoko Honda; daughter Lynn R. Liu of Pukalani, Maui; sister Tomiko Fujimoto of Kahului; and four grandchildren.

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