Hilo businessman served in state House in 1970s
Wing Kong 'Winkie' Chong / 1916-2006
Wing Kong "Winkie" Chong, 89, of Hilo, a businessman and former legislator, died April 25 in Hilo.
"He wasn't a politician. He was a statesman," said attorney Stanley Roehrig, who served with him in the House of Representatives in the early 1970s.
Chong was a Republican and Roehrig a Democrat, but party labels were irrelevant, Roehrig said.
"He was my partner. We never had a disagreement about anything that was good for Hilo," Roehrig said.
Another young Democrat then in the Legislature, Anson Chong, remembered him as a mentor. "He took me under his wing," Anson Chong said, perhaps because they shared the same last name although they were not related.
The elder Chong served in the House in 1971-74. He ran for mayor in 1972 and 1974, both times against the eventual winner, Democrat Herbert Matayoshi.
Young attorney Valta Cook served as Chong's campaign manager. "He was just a neat guy. He was really well known and liked," Cook said.
Chong was born in 1916, the son of Charles Chong Man and En Fung Pung, and grew up in the part of Hilo named Chongville for his father, who ran a meat market.
Chong graduated from Hilo High in 1936, attended the University of Hawaii and earned a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Ohio in 1940 and a master's degree in education from Columbia University in 1941. In 1948 he married Ethel R. Ishii.
Chong taught at Mountain View Elementary, Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High. He called his students "angels," said his son Clayton.
He was a Boy Scout leader for more than 30 years.
Chong was elected to the former Board of Supervisors of Hawaii County in 1960-62, serving temporarily as chairman, equivalent to mayor.
After leaving politics in the 1970s, he remained active in the insurance business. "He was the ultimate caring businessperson," his son Curtis said.
Chong is survived by wife Ethel, sons Curtis and Clayton, daughter Elisa and five grandchildren. Services are pending.