JOHN "COBRA" DESOTO SR. / 1924-2006
COURTESY DESOTO FAMILY
John "Cobra" DeSoto Sr. co-founded the Hawaii Motorsports Association.
Motorcycle pioneer founded track
A political family patriarch dies of lung cancer at 81
Motorcycle enthusiast John "Cobra" DeSoto Sr. died June 25 of lung cancer at his Waianae home surrounded by his entire family.
The father of former city Councilman John DeSoto Jr. and husband of former Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman A. Frenchy DeSoto was one month shy of his 82nd birthday.
"Right after we did a prayer, within 30 seconds, he stopped breathing," said his daughter, Laura DeSoto-McCollongh.
"I lost my best friend," said John DeSoto Jr., who credited his father with pioneering motorcycle racing on Oahu.
DeSoto Sr., a retired heavy equipment mechanic, co-founded the Hawaii Motorsports Association and Kahuku Motocross Track, which is the only legal off-road park on Oahu.
Frenchy DeSoto said her husband rode motorcycles since he was a teenager.
"I met him when we were really young, at the Waikiki Natatorium. I used to go swimming there, and he and his crew used to gather there," said his wife of 60 years.
DeSoto Jr. said his father was nicknamed Cobra when he was younger because the pipe he hooked up to the muffler on his motor scooter shook like a rattlesnake.
DeSoto Sr. owned a variety of motorcycles, including a Harley-Davidson, Triumph and Indian, and would ride them as often as he could, his wife said.
Even after he was physically unable to ride, she said, he would go down to the park to watch his children and grandchildren ride.
DeSoto is also survived by sons Bruce Sr., Ronald Sr. and Manny; brother Paul Sr. and sister Vivian Kilborn.
A wake service will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the mauka chapel at Mililiani Mortuary-Waipio, beginning with visitation at 6 p.m.
Funeral services will be 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at the mortuary, with visitation starting at 9 a.m. Burial at Mililani Memorial Park will follow at 12:30 p.m.