Only paternal pride eclipsed his passion for paper's integrity
Oscar Kuwahara / 1927-2006
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Oscar Kuwahara acted as a filter for inaccuracy and insensitivity in the news content of the paper during his 32 years as a copy editor at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
With news experience in Japan, the mainland and Europe before he returned to Hawaii, he spoke with authority that set writers and editors to take another look at their work.
"Kuwahara handled a large volume of stories nightly," said former Editor John Simonds. "It's a demanding, unheralded job. The average reader doesn't appreciate the effort. People like Oscar are the reason we had far fewer mistakes than we might have.
"He was especially sensitive about new reporters, making sure they understood the history of Hawaii. If he spotted cultural insensitivity, he was quick to note it," Simonds said.
Kuwahara died Monday at 78. He retired from the paper in 1993. He had previously worked on Stars and Stripes in Tokyo and Darmstadt, Germany, and for the Milwaukee Sentinel.
"His intellect was impeccable, no compromising. Spelling something properly was paramount," said Arlene Lum, former Star-Bulletin publisher. She renewed her respect for his skill when they worked together on a history of Iolani School, published in 1997. "He had an absolutely incredible memory for statistics and detail."
Columnist Ben Wood and Kuwahara worked together at the European edition of the daily newspaper for American military abroad. "He was well-respected at Stars and Stripes, assigned to head the bureau at Orleans, France. He was a lively guy over there," said Wood.
The two Hawaii men shared bachelor adventures in Europe in the 1950s. Their experiences in sampling restaurants that scored stars in the Michelin Guide led the pair to launch a European-style restaurant in Honolulu, a short-lived venture.
Kuwahara's fellow workers knew his wry sense of humor and, if they were in his favor, benefited from individually wrapped bounty from his mango tree long after he retired. But he was also widely regarded as "kind of a curmudgeon," said staffer Cynthia Oi. "He was serious about work. He cared about what he did. It was something more than a job."
Simonds said: "If you ever wanted him to put down his pencil and talk to you, you just asked about his sons. He was very, very proud of his sons."
Kuwahara was born in Hilo. He graduated from Hilo High School, where he worked on the school newspaper. After serving with the Army from 1946 to 1948, he entered Marquette University School of Journalism and graduated in 1952.
He is survived by his wife Janet; sons Ryan of Honolulu, Scott of San Jose, Calif., and Kenneth and his wife, Jadine, of Burlingame, Calif.; sisters Betsy Umetsu and Matsuko Kawaharada; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service was held yesterday.
The family suggests that memorial donations be made to: American Heart Association of Hawaii, 245 N. Kukui St., Suite 204, Honolulu, 96817; American Cancer Society, 2370B Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu 96817; American Lung Association of Hawaii, 245 N. Kukui St., Honolulu 96817; or PBS Hawaii, 2350 Dole St., Honolulu 96822.