WILI MOKU / 1956-2004
Deejays secret was
just being himself
The radio host, who aided
other diabetes patients, dies at 47
Isle radio personality Wili Moku believed in being himself.
Saturday, Jan. 31, 2003
>> Radio personality Wili Moku's real name was William Saragosa, not Michael Saragosa as incorrectly reported in a Page A1 obituary yesterday.
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Friends say that is how Moku drew listeners to Hawaii's airwaves for more than two decades and drove up ratings at station KQMQ during the 1980s.
The celebrity spokesman for the American Diabetes Association of Hawaii was also upfront about the disease that cost him both his legs.
"A lot of disc jockeys became disc jockeys because of the kind of person that he was," said longtime friend Kimo Akane. "He was pretty unique. He was himself."
Former deejay Wili Moku, whose real name was Michael Saragosa, battled diabetes in his last years.
Moku, whose real name was Michael Saragosa, died yesterday at St. Francis Medical Center-West when his heart stopped during a dialysis session and doctors were unable to revive him, said his sister Karen Alcosiba.
Moku was 47, and his survivors include an 8-year-old daughter.
"He could do it all. He could be wild. He could be charming. He could be funny as hell. It all matched the tempo of the show," said John Matthews, program director for Oldies 107.9, where Moku had been for the past two years on a Sunday show from 6 to 9 p.m.
Listening to other deejays during his years at Waipahu High School inspired Moku to get into radio.
"I thought, 'I can do that,'" he told the Star-Bulletin in 2000, the same year that a number of local entertainers put on a benefit concert for the broadcaster to help pay for his medical bills and dialysis treatment.
Moku got his radio start in 1975 running errands at KORL. By the end of the year, he had a show of his own.
The deejay moved to KKUA AM 690 with Akane in the early 1980s and finally made it to KQMQ, where he put in a 13-year stint and made a show that was consistently top-rated among young listeners. He also co-hosted "AJI Magic City," Japan's No. 1 weekend show.
"He loved entertaining people," Alcosiba said. "He loved the radio. ... He loved being Wili Moku."
Moku not only introduced music, he played it. In 1982 he wrote and recorded "Palolo Valley Girls," a parody of Frank and Moon Unit Zappa's hit, "Valley Girls."
Akane said his friend was a "pretty accomplished" guitar player and singer, who called his style of music "back to the wood."
Moku left the islands in the late 1990s. It was while in California that, after years of neglecting his condition, Moku's health finally failed and doctors had to amputate his legs and two of his fingers.
Moku was devastated, Alcosiba said. But he returned to Hawaii in 2000 and went public with his disease to bring more awareness to diabetes, she said, adding that he always told her, "There wasn't anything else I could do but tell people to look at me and learn from it."
Moku lived with his sister for three years after returning from the mainland. In October he moved into an apartment on his own at a Waipahu facility for people with disabilities.
"With everything that he was going through ... he actually told people to look past their problems," Alcosiba said. "With everything he went through, he actually encouraged other people."
Word of Moku's death shocked those who knew him, many of whom had recently shared laughs with the deejay.
"Our whole staff is reeling because we just had a staff meeting last night, so literally 24 hours ago we were all sitting around the same table, eating pizza and making jokes," Matthews said, adding that he would tell the station's listeners of Moku's death this morning.
"It's going to be a real somber thing to have to tell people. Everybody remembers him for being possibly the best afternoon disc jockey Hawaii's ever seen."
Moku is also survived by sister Linda Saragosa, brother Michael and daughter Dakota Jane, who lives with Moku's ex-wife in California. Services are pending.