Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 - A look back

Soldiers at war named
top isle story of year

Blake Magaoay joined the Marines to make his parents proud, not to die in Iraq.

"When he first told me he was going to join the Marines, I asked him why," his father, Tony, said after burying his son at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Dec. 13. "He said, 'That's what I want to do, Dad.' But I found out later why he joined," he told the Star-Bulletin. "It was because he wanted to show his parents he was a man, and to make his parents proud."

The 2002 Pearl City graduate was described as a good and caring man, a loyal friend. A ladies' man, one friend said.

And so the descriptions went at many memorial services since the war began in 2003, slivers of memories that sounded so much the same and yet were so distinctive in describing each of the 51 military personnel with ties to Hawaii who were killed or have died from injuries received in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Most of the 51 died during the past year.

1. Hawaii troops to war: With more than 12,000 troops from Hawaii military bases in the Middle East, it was not difficult to reach a consensus for the most important news story of the year in Hawaii. And the state's presence is only expected to grow in the Middle East, with about 2,500 National Guard soldiers and reservists training before they are sent overseas early next year.

There were plenty of important events that touched Hawaii's residents during 2004. Among them are the shootout at a public golf course, a deadly shark attack, flooding in Manoa that left more than $100 million in damage, and the death of four people in a car race on the H-1.

But it was the military deployment that had lasting repercussions for the state, from dying and injured soldiers, to the grief of their families and friends, and to the economic loss of communities surrounding bases.

"This is my warrior," said Magaoay's mother, Gina Ellis-Williams, as she walked around his casket, holding an eagle feather and burning sweet grass. It was an expression of love, grief and sorrow, one that many Hawaii families hope they will not have to repeat.

2. Manoa floods: It was a different kind of loss that occurred in Manoa Valley on the night before Halloween, when Manoa Stream, bulging with rainwater, flooded homes and the University of Hawaii campus. More than 190 homes and businesses, an elementary school and several UH buildings were damaged. At UH, books, maps, manuscripts and irreplaceable historic documents were lost to the rising waters, which caused up to $100 million in damage.

3. New mayor: Mufi Hannemann's mayoral victory may have been as unexpected as the Manoa flood. Duke Bainum looked unstoppable in the race for Honolulu mayor according to media polls, and the early numbers in the Nov. 2 election seemed to confirm it. But the electorate pulled a few surprises on election night. In the end, Hannemann won by a margin of about 1,300 votes, becoming Honolulu's 12th mayor and the first of Samoan ancestry.

4. Lingle trips: As Hannemann's political star was rising, Gov. Linda Lingle's seemed to be fading a bit. Still well liked by a majority of Hawaii residents, and a darling of the Republican Party nationwide, Lingle could not translate her charisma and popularity into victories for the GOP in her home state, including the presidency. Republican incumbents lost six seats in the Legislature, and Democrats overrode seven of the governor's 10 vetoes.

5. Dobelle's ouster: While she lost some of her luster, at least Lingle did not lose her job, unlike University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle. In June the UH regents fired Dobelle "for cause" after a 12-hour meeting. The highly controversial decision tarnished the university, the board and Dobelle. But the firing would not be the end of it.

Later, UH regents and Dobelle agreed to a mediated settlement that gave the ousted president $1.05 million and a $125,000-a-year faculty position for two years and removed the "for cause" from his dismissal.

Dobelle took the money, as well as another job. In October he was named president of the New England Board of Higher Education.

6. Pali shooting: The very public shootout at the Pali Golf Course in the clubhouse parking lot shocked many in Hawaii last February. These are things that are supposed to happen in smoky gambling dens deep into the night, not in plain view of leisurely golfers.

When the firing stopped -- 13 to 18 bullets were fired -- two men were dead and one was critically injured. Police say the shootings apparently stemmed from several factions fighting for control of security at illegal gambling parlors throughout Oahu.

7. Shark!: Shark attacks are rare in Hawaii, but 2004 saw two incidents. In April, Willis McInnis died after his leg was mangled by a shark about 200 yards offshore in Kahana, Maui. His friend Rodger Coombs and other bystanders who rushed to help could not save McInnis, 57, of Napili. It was the fourth isle death attributed to sharks since 1991. In October a diver survived after he was bitten by a 12-foot shark off eastern Molokai.

8. Maui airport scare: Maui already had made national news before the shark attack. A month earlier, Haiku resident Paul Sherman Blatchley drove his roommate's sport utility vehicle loaded with three 5-gallon cans of gasoline into the Kahului Airport terminal and set it on fire. The fire shut down the airport for more than nine hours, stranding thousands of passengers. Blatchley, 52, of Haiku, pleaded guilty to causing violence at an international airport.

9. Freeway racing: The flames were of a different sort on the H-1 on the early morning of Feb. 13, when witnesses said they saw three vehicles engulfed in a huge fireball.

Mariano Salangdron Sr. and driver Carl "Sonny" Koonce III were doing an early-morning check for debris on the freeway before the opening of the ZipLane when two cars suspected of racing slammed into the rear of their flatbed truck. Salangdron was killed in the accident. Three of four people in the cars suspected of racing also died. Koonce survived, and so did a passenger in one of the cars.

10. Stryker strikes: The Army's Stryker combat vehicles were given the green light to operate in Hawaii in the next three years. The military said it would take steps to minimize any problems, but Hawaii activists remain concerned about the environmental and cultural impact of transforming the Army's light infantry division to a unit based around faster and more mobile 19-ton, eight-wheeled armored vehicles.


Hawaii remembers

A glance at some of the notable figures in Hawaii who died in 2004:

» Hiram L. Fong, a Chinese immigrants' son who overcame poverty to become a millionaire businessman and the first Asian American elected to the U.S. Senate

» Longtime Star-Bulletin columnist Dave Donnelly

» Clayton Bertelmann, who was instrumental in the building of the Big Island's voyaging canoe Makalii

» Travel executive Didi Ah Yo, who was known for her TV commercials

» Honolulu radio personality William Saragosa, who was better known as Wili Moku

» Award-winning kumu hula Thaddius Wilson

» Lindsey Pollock, a former Hawaiian Airlines public relations official who convinced the carrier to become an original sponsor of the Merrie Monarch Festival

» Federal appeals Judge Herbert Y.C. Choy, the first Asian American to serve on the federal bench.

» Ben H. Tamashiro, who with his wife gained fame through a series of popular Bank of Hawaii television commercials

» Gilbert Lani Kauhi, the actor better known as Zulu, who was a member of the original cast of the "Hawaii Five-0" TV series

» Martha Poepoe Hohu, a conductor, composer, arranger, singer and organist who spearheaded the compilation of three Hawaiian hymnals and won numerous awards

» Marshall Goodsill, one of state's best-known attorneys, who also was a nationally recognized expert in corporate securities, public utilities and tax practice

» Helene Matsunaga, the wife of the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii

» Thomas K. Hugo Jr., longtime head of the Hawaii Paroling Authority. He played professional football with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League from 1953 through 1959.

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