Pat Morita brought Christmas to hospital-bound keiki
Whether he was Arnold on "Happy Days," Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" series or any other movie, television or stand-up role, Pat Morita was one of a kind. An icon. And a character.
But what most people do not know about Pat is that his heart was as large as he was. He had a special place for kids in hospitals, for he spent most of his first nine years in one. He was missed by Santa on one of those occasions and he vowed to be sure other kids didn't experience that disappointment.
That's why when he was in Honolulu during the holidays he would go by arrangement to Kapiolani Hospital on Christmas Day with stuffed toys and hand them out to kids on the cancer ward. He required there be no publicity about it.
I recall getting a phone call at First Hawaiian Bank (where I was in marketing) from an auntie who said her 3-year-old niece was losing her sight and about to undergo radical surgery with long odds. The little girl loved Pat Mortia and his "Yes" TV commercials. Could we provide a videotape they could play for her in the hospital? I immediately got the tape, but I called Pat and told him the situation. He asked when he could visit the little girl. My wife was PR director at Kapiolani Hospital at the time, and she arranged for Pat and his wife, Evie, to visit one afternoon. He arrived with a couple of big stuffed animals. The child was excited to actually see "The Yes Man," as she called him. Pat got up on her hospital bed and the two of them talked, colored, watched TV and laughed at his antics for more than an hour. It was a special time for both of them, and indicative of Pat's unselfishness and love for kids.
Many, many people will miss Pat now that he is gone. He and I stayed in touch, visited periodically and always called each other on our birthdays (he was a year younger and always reminded me!). I will miss him as a professional associate at FHB and as a friend, but I'm sure there are hundreds of folks who'll miss him because when they were kids in hospitals at Christmas, Pat Morita would brighten their day.