ISLE BUSINESS LEADER IS HONORED
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The choral group Ka Wai Ola led family and friends in song yesterday afternoon during a memorial service for J.W.A. "Doc" Buyers at the First Presbyterian Church in Makiki.
‘Doc’ Buyers inspired, leaders say
His charisma and enthusiasm headline a memorial service
J.W.A. "Doc" Buyers was praised yesterday as an acute and creative business leader who made a positive impact on Hawaii's economy in the late 20th century.
But it was anecdotes about the charismatic personality of the former head of C. Brewer & Co., who participated in fund-raising and support projects for dozens of charitable causes, that aroused nods and comments from the crowd of about 200 people at a memorial service.
The afternoon service at the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu honored Buyers, who died May 20 at the age of 77.
"He loved to solve problems and he was good at it," said Alan Kugle, former C. Brewer executive vice president and general counsel, who worked with Buyers for 30 years.
Buyers came to Hawaii in 1975 to run the Big Five company and "worked for years in Washington, D.C., to save the Hawaii sugar industry," Kugle said.
He spearheaded C. Brewer's transformation from a sugar grower into diversified agriculture with brand names such as Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts, Royal Kona Coffee, Hawaii's Own tropical juices and Kukui jams.
In 1986 he led a group of investors who acquired the company in "the most complicated leveraged buyout of a company in Hawaii history," said Kugle, who is now trustee in the dissolution of C. Brewer properties.
Kugle said employees found it inspiring "to work for a corporation where the chairman of the board is the hardest-working member." Many former C. Brewer employees were in the crowd.
Among the business and community leaders attending were former Gov. George Ariyoshi and wife Jean, who partnered with Buyers in a 1990s project that planted "a million trees of aloha" on Oahu and the neighbor islands.
"He was a dreamer. He believed everything was possible," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who was formerly with C. Brewer as vice president for marketing and community development.
"He was local to the max ... and he was a universal man, with national and international friends who he asked to be part of development of Hawaii," Hannemann said.
Buyers backed up his dream of developing a wellness industry on the Big Island by making Hilo the headquarters of his D. Buyers Enterprises, which he formed in 2001, specializing in tropical fruit juices and other diversified agriculture.
The Rev. Dan Chun told the crowd that Buyers was a prayerful, religious man. The service was filled with sacred and Hawaiian songs that were favorites of Buyers, Chun said. The church's grand piano was donated by Buyers in memory of his parents.
Buyers' wife, Elizabeth Lindsey Buyers, and his first wife, Elsie Parkhurst Buyers, greeted people after the service, along with his three daughters.
Buyers died in Lancaster, Pa., where he spent his last months in the care of his first wife and his daughters.