Longtime local public relations woman dies
Eileen Mortenson, a public relations professional in Honolulu for some 26 years, died at home yesterday after a long illness. She was 62.
Friend and fellow PR woman Ruth Ann Becker, president of Becker Communications Inc., notified a long list of friends by e-mail yesterday afternoon.
"Our dear friend passed on quietly this morning at 11:45 a.m. Her brother Chuck had arrived yesterday, and so was with her, as was her friend and caretaker Ellie Goodman," Becker wrote.
"As you know, she'd also been recently visited by her brother Don, sister Marion and niece Christina. She was surrounded by love in her last weeks on earth, including the love she received from your many wonderful messages, cards, flowers, thoughts and prayers."
President of Eileen Mortenson Communications, she had for decades taught classes for small businesses on how they could obtain free publicity. Editors and news directors from print and broadcast media, with whom she had cultivated professional and personal relationships, were regular presenters in her classes.
She also taught classes and seminars at universities in the Western United States and provided public relations and issues management training to senior executives in Singapore; Bangkok, Thailand; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Her client list ranged from the famous -- including Paul Brown Salons and Day Spas, Consolidated Theatres and the Honolulu Marathon -- to those that didn't set out to be household names, such as the Agricultural Leadership Foundation of Hawaii.
Mortenson established "Crucial News Contacts in Hawaii," a directory of editors and reporters at Hawaii's mainstream and specialized news outlets. In recent years she purchased and refurbished "The Directory of Hawaii Organizations," containing contact information for more than 2,200 organization, from large and small nonprofits to orchid and dog fanciers' clubs.
Before she came to the islands, Mortenson served as an aide to the governor of Illinois. She was recruited to the White House staff and spent two years in its communications office.
After arriving in Hawaii and setting up shop, she hosted a regularly scheduled talk show on KITV for four years.
Neighbor Lora Williams spearheaded an effort to get T-shirts imprinted with the words "Team Eileen" to friends and colleagues across the country during the earlier stages of Mortenson's illness. An image of Mortenson's terrier Gizmo was included in the wording.
The idea was for people to have a picture taken of themselves wearing the shirt and cheering Mortenson on. The response and the caliber of people who participated was "amazing," Williams said.
Mortenson had a profound effect on many lives, she said.
"There were a lot of first-job opportunities that she gave people. They now have doctorates. She really impacted so many people in such a positive way ... she hired 'em, she mentored them, she nurtured them, she really was a great present for a great number of people, professionally and personally."
"I am honored to have known, loved and respected a woman of such wonderful quality as Eileen Mortenson."
Mortenson is survived by her siblings, Chuck, Don and Marion Cernansky, her niece Christina and her nephew Peter.
Plans for a celebration of Mortenson's life are pending.