Tuesday, September 24, 2002


Successful salesman climbed
mountains for friends

See also: Obituaries

By Pat Gee

Mun Charn Wong, one of only 12 insurance agents to be named a legend of Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Co. in its 97-year history, died last Tuesday in Honolulu. He was 84.

In the Los Angeles headquarters of the company, Wong's name is at the very top of the list on a Wall of Fame, according to Trans-america Vice President Jerry Paul.

Paul said Wong, a popular inspirational speaker in more than 75 cities around the world in his industry, took "a genuine interest ... in everybody he touched. His secret, in Mun Charn's words, was to "find out what their interests are, what they care about, what they fear, and help them work on these things."

Wong started with Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii in 1953, then known as L.T. Kagawa's Security Insurance Agency, and made the Million Dollar Round Table and Leading Producers Club his first year, an accomplishment for a rookie, and one he repeated every year since then.

Wong, a retired Air Force colonel, went to Kaahumanu Elementary School, Washington Intermediate and McKinley High School. He graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in chemistry and was a second lieutenant in the ROTC.

He was called to active duty in World War II with the 7th Air Force, receiving battle stars during his five years on the European front lines.

His boyhood friend of more than 70 years, Leighton Louis, said, "He was a great man and raised a great family." Louis said Wong's indomitable "spirit, his desire to live" in spite of serious health problems, most impressed him.

When the "shy" Wong entered the insurance field, however, he knew he had to be able to express himself and took a Dale Carnegie course, Louis said.

"It just changed him completely. He became a super salesman. But he was still very humble, very honest about selling insurance because he believed (in) it, that people needed it to take care of their families," Louis said.

Wong was also tremendously loyal to his friends, trekking across Europe in search of information regarding the death of his high school and college buddy Wah Kau Kong, a fighter pilot killed in Germany during World War II, said his son, Michael. Wong climbed the mountain to where his plane crashed in the aerial dogfight and found the man who lifted his body from the aircraft. He then established a UH ROTC scholarship in Kong's memory, Michael Wong said.

Besides his numerous memberships in community organizations and a long list of commendations from various groups, Wong could list quite a few accomplishments as a football player and golfer who played with PGA celebrities.

But his daughter, Mary Beth, said he was most proud of his accomplishments as quarterback of the Air Force football team, which he led to several key victories in 1943.

Friend John Spierling met Wong at the Waialae Country Club, where "everybody wanted to claim Mun Charn Wong was their friend. Anytime anybody needed help, he was there."

Wong is also survived by wife Mew Choy; sons John, Jim and David; daughter Ann Ho; brothers Mun Kin, Walter and Alfred; sister Ruth Lee; and eight grandchildren. Services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday with visitation at noon, at St. Alban's Chapel, Iolani School. Inurnment will be at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. The family requests aloha attire and no flowers.

Donations may be made to the UH Foundation for the Mun Charn Wong Memorial Fund or Iolani School.

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