Sunday, July 7, 2002

Victoria Ward in the mid-1800s.

A link lost
to Hawaii

Victoria Ward sale cuts
main remaining Hawaii tie
for the Hustace family

By Tim Ruel

Many of the Hustace family had long ago left Hawaii, the relatives settling across the mainland. Only one central tie remained, Victoria Ward Ltd., the family's company that controlled 65 acres of top real estate in Kakaako for 72 years.

The recent $250 million sale of the family company and major landowner Victoria Ward Ltd. is saddening for some family members, but it was a smart business decision, they say.

"I always felt like it was something that all of us had in common and now that Victoria Ward is gone ... you know that commonality is gone also," said Walter Hustace, who lives in Oklahoma. "This is one thing we had in common that we could discuss among ourselves when the occasion arose."

At the time of the April sale agreement, Victoria Ward had about 35 shareholders. Hustace and his four surviving brothers -- Cedric, David, Frank Jr. and Ed -- are past retirement age, and the estate tax would have likely hacked away at their assets. "We're all getting old," said David Hustace, brother of Walter.

"Really I didn't want to sell," he said. He had a sentimental attachment to the company and the land. But "with everybody in agreement, you had to go along," David said. "The price was a good price. It's hard to refuse something that is reasonably priced."

Victoria Ward, third from right, sits on the front lanai of Old Plantation in 1888 with her seven daughters, ranging in age from 7 to 21.

His mother, Mary Catherine Kekulani Magoon Hustace, was daughter-in-law to Mellie Ward Hustace, the oldest of the seven daughters of Curtis and Victoria Ward. Mary Catherine died in Waimea in 1996 after her 103th birthday.

While Cedric, David and Walter have spent much of their lives on the mainland and view Hawaii as a place to visit, their brothers Ed and Frank Jr. have stayed in the islands, and were officers of Victoria Ward Ltd. to the end.

Another Victoria Ward daughter, May, married Ernest Hay Wodehouse in 1893 and they had one son, Cenric N. Wodehouse. Two other Ward sisters married but had no children, and three sisters never married.

The Hustace boys

Cedric Hustace, 68, is the youngest son of Mary Catherine, and retired last month as an attorney in Evansville, Ind., a city of 121,000 on the Kentucky border. Cedric, along with Walter and his brothers, grew up with memories of the family's former estate, Old Plantation, in Kakaako where Blaisdell Center sits today. Cedric went to law school in Texas and started his career as a government attorney in Missouri in the early 1960s, he said. He left St. Louis in 1978 and ended up working as a business attorney in Evansville. Painting is his new career.

"It was getting to the point where my art practice is beginning to be lucrative and so I decided, well, I'm going to make the jump and do art full time," he said. Cedric has studied art at Texas Western College, the University of Miami and in Heidelberg, Germany. He's an impressionist, painting landscapes and seascapes in acrylic on canvas. Thirty-one of his paintings of the volcano area of the Big Island are on display at the Michael Dunn Gallery at Indiana's Oakland City University. His favorite is a view of Kailua-Kona from the water. Locally, his work displays at the Volcano Art Center on the Big Island and at Bishop Museum.

Three months ago, when Victoria Ward shareholders met to discuss a buyout of their 72-year-old company, Cedric didn't attend. He was in the Netherlands on a business trip, sightseeing and gathering material for paintings. "I kind of love every place I've been," he said.

David Hustace, 72, left Hawaii along with several of his family during WWII after Pearl Harbor. He was 12 at the time. They drove across the southern United States in a 1938 Buick, he said, with Hawaii plates. "I can very clearly remember," he said. "In West Texas, everybody had horses tied up outside."

The family settled in Baton Rouge, La., first. "No good reason. Nice warm climate," David said.

He went to high school in El Paso, Texas, and got an engineering degree from the University of Texas. He married a Texas woman, and settled in Austin. He has three children, though no grandchildren.

Walter Hustace, 77, served in the military from 1943 to 1947 during WWII. He eventually moved to the mainland, and never stuck to one profession, he said. Last year, Walter and his wife started a new venture, a catered meeting place in a house overlooking Grand Lake in Northeast Oklahoma. It takes stamina, Walter said. "I think it's in our genes," he said. "We're survivors."

His great-grandmother, Victoria Robinson Ward, was born in Nuuanu in 1846 to Kaikilani Rebecca and James Robinson.

Curtis and Victoria

Victoria's future husband, Curtis Ward, was born in Kentucky and arrived in Hawaii in 1853 when whaling in the Pacific was at its peak.

Curtis worked at the Royal Custom House, which monitored commercial activity at Honolulu Harbor for the kingdom. He started a livery with headquarters on Queen Street and expanded into the business of transporting cargo on horse-pulled wagons. The size of Ward's work force became just as big as the harbor's other major player, James Robinson & Co.

When tensions began to rise between the American North and South in the late 1850s, Ward would defend his Southern heritage. As a result, Ward's home, named "Dixie," was often stoned by Northern sailors, according to a published family history written two years ago by Frank Ward Hustace III, grandson of Mary Catherine.

Curtis and Victoria married in 1865 and, over time, bought more than 100 acres on what was then the outskirts of Honolulu, running from Thomas Square to the ocean, to establish the family home, Old Plantation.

Much of the family's published history focused on the happier side of life at Old Plantation. At the time, however, newspaper stories took a more scandalous tone.

Victoria Ward Ltd.

Victoria Ward established Victoria Ward Ltd. in 1930 to manage the family's property, on an investment of $10,000. Twenty years later, a family feud broke out among five of the Ward sisters over control of the firm, which had grown to a market value of more than $1 million.

Hattie Ward, then 79, was declared incompetent by a Hawaii judge after her two sisters, Lani Booth and Mellie Hustace, petitioned to have the Hawaiian Trust Co. named as guardian of Hattie's estate. But another sister, Lucy Kaiaka Ward, accused her siblings of trying to take control of the family company and replace its officers. Lucy sought to remove the trust company as guardian. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1952 denied an appeal of the judge's ruling.

Later news surrounded the resignation of Mellie's grandson Frank Hustace Jr. from the administration of Gov. William Quinn, just days before Hawaii's first gubernatorial election in 1959. Frank, then commissioner of public lands, told Quinn in a private letter that he was stepping down because Quinn did not consult him about a major campaign proposal for a "Second Mahele" to sell undeveloped public land. Hustace did not support the proposal. "That I do not presently enjoy your trust and confidence is self-evident," Frank wrote Quinn.

The letter leaked out after Quinn won. Quinn, a Republican, later said he regretted naming the proposal after the Mahele. The Mahele of 1848 allowed foreigners to buy lands from Hawaiian alii, aiding in the overthrow of the monarchy. Frank Jr., a Honolulu attorney and brother of Cedric, David, Ed and Walter, could not be reached for this story.

For the Hustace family who live on the mainland, such tales must be exotic. But Cedric said he doesn't talk much about the family history in Indiana. "I just don't want to bore people," he said.

"They probably would just kind of look at me, 'well, so what?'"

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