Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Wyatt’s story deserved
a better ending

Suspect arrested in attacks

TATTOOS from his Navy days and muscular legs. That was the best I could do when the medical examiner called, asking for any identifying marks that would help confirm a victim's identity.

It took a while to sink in that this would be how the M.E. could positively identify Jack Wyatt as the 71-year-old male who drowned after being pushed into the Ala Wai Canal yesterday morning.

Wyatt was a freelance recreation writer for the Star-Bulletin for more than 25 years. He retired in 1998 to pursue the "leisurely life of a senior citizen," he once said before trotting off on another of his famous runs through the Manoa streets.

One was never quite sure where Wyatt would next appear. At the beach, watching a canoe regatta. At Kapiolani Park, cheering on the finishing runners. At Ala Wai Harbor, enjoying the sailors heading out for pau hana.

He always seemed to be there, wherever the people of Hawaii were out for recreation. Wyatt understood the everyday athlete, the one who decided to lose the sedentary lifestyle and bad habits in the run toward better health.

Wyatt could relate because he had done it. Some people find religion; Jack found running and himself.

Ironically, that's the only reason I knew about those tattoos. He was an ex-Navy chief who gave up hard drinking and chain smoking.

"Jack was a runner's writer," said Dr. Jim Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association. "He was emblematic of the peak years of road racing in Hawaii. He was so supportive of running and had a passion for it himself.

"The goal in a race is to do well. But there was also a goal to do well enough that you would be interviewed by Jack Wyatt."

It was difficult to call former colleagues with the sad news yesterday. Former Star-Bulletin sportswriter Jim Easterwood shared a house with Wyatt for several years.

"He was unique, one in a million," said Easterwood, now a self-described gentleman farmer in Wingo, Ky. "He always did everything his way. He had his routine, a bowl of porridge and a 10-mile run in his white shorts.

"He was cynical and caustic, but a very good friend and listener. It more than made up for his smelly tennis shoes."

Wyatt was more than a decent tennis player. Former Star-Bulletin sportswriter Dick Couch knows firsthand.

"He was good enough to beat us 'younger' guys all the time," Couch said. "He was a free-spirit type of guy who could write about many things and write about them well.

"He thrived on salad bars, outdoor sports and was a jolly dude. He's somebody to be missed."

Said another former Star-Bulletin sportswriter, Pat Bigold: "Jack truly understood the plight of the runner. He had insight that was very valuable, insight that other writers could not provide."

His age had betrayed him. Wyatt no longer ran, but took several long, brisk walks a day.

His last one was yesterday morning along the Ala Wai.

Police arrested a suspect but are looking for witnesses in the assault that occurred around 8:15 a.m. near Seaside Avenue. Anyone with information can call Detective Ted Coons at 529-3053 or anonymous calls may be made to CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

Wyatt helped so many through his writing and kind words. Now it's time for someone to help him. Please call if you saw what happened.

Cindy Luis is Star-Bulletin sports editor.
Her column appears periodically.
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