WWII veteran called dean of isle property insurance
William Tsugio Hiraoka / 1917-2006
William Tsugio Hiraoka, nicknamed Hawaii's dean of property and casualty insurance, died Friday.* The retired president of National Mortgage & Finance Co. Ltd. was at home in Manoa, surrounded by family, when he died from a heart condition that afternoon. He was 89.
Hiraoka is survived by his wife, Ruth Toshiko Nakamoto Hiraoka, his son, John, and his daughter, Nancy.
Born in January 1917, Hiraoka was a University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate who served 21 years in the U.S. Army, which stationed him from Australia to the Philippines and Japan.
He was drafted into the Army during World War II, just three weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As part of the Army counterintelligence corps, he was sent to Tokyo to arrest Gen. Hideki Tojo, the Japan wartime prime minister. Hiraoka was called to active duty again for the Korean War. He retired as a lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army in 1977.
In between terms of active duty, he got into the insurance business, starting as an insurance officer for the U.S. Veterans Administration, becoming part owner of his own company and eventually president of National Mortgage, managing Island Insurance Co. Ltd. and Tradewind Insurance Co. Ltd.
Hiraoka is credited with shepherding Island Insurance Co. to a superior rating of A plus.
"I don't think there's any question he's considered the dean of property and casualty insurance in Hawaii," said Lionel Tokioka, former chairman of CB Bancshares and current director of National Mortgage, who called Hiraoka a mentor. "He's been a resource for the Legislature, the administration and for everyone who wanted to regulate the industry. ... He was respected by everyone in the business because of the type of person he was, very honest and knowledgeable."
Robin Campaniano, former state insurance commissioner and now president and CEO of AIG Hawaii, said he was deeply saddened to hear of Hiraoka's passing.
"I learned to value his honesty and integrity," Campaniano said. "He left standards for all of us to follow."
Tokioka called Hiraoka, or "Bill" as he was known among friends, a community-minded person.
He was active in a long list of organizations, from the Lions Club of Honolulu to Manoa Valley Church and the Army Historical Foundation. He was a supporter and life member of Bishop Museum, and a Honolulu Academy of Arts fellow.
Hiraoka's daughter, Nancy, said her father was always committed to whatever task was at hand.
"He was very committed to his work, or whatever he was doing, whether it was a charitable cause or just doing simple things like yardwork," she said.
Up to his last days, he was an active participant in the Honolulu Blood and Aging study and the Honolulu Heart Study. He committed to an autopsy upon death along with organ donations.
He was a regular donor to the Blood Bank of Hawaii, having given 62 pints of blood.
Nancy described her father as a world traveler and avid reader. He was fond of tending after the banana, mango and lychee trees in the backyard.
A Manoa resident since 1953, Hiraoka was very much involved with that community.
William S. Richardson, former chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, called Hiraoka "a public-spirited person."
The two go back to at least 60 years, when they were students together at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and served in the U.S. Army Reserves. In their younger years, they went surfing in Waikiki and Laie.
"He did a lot of things for charitable organizations, and as a reserve officer," Richardson said. "He was a real public-spirited person, and highly knowledgeable on the insurance industry."
Hiraoka was a big fan of UH sports. The two often went to football games and basketball games together.
"I think we've lost a great man, we really have," Richardson said. "He was a great person to have known."