And now for the heavier side of 'Lite'
THIS is one of those days when "Lite" isn't going to be all that light. We have to take some time to note the passing of three men, all of whom tried in their own ways to make Hawaii a special place.
The first, of course, is Don Ho, who died Saturday at age 76. For much of Hawaii, he was the laid-back uncle who golfed and entertained in Waikiki. Ain't no beeg t'ing. For the rest of the world, he WAS Hawaii. Period. I was floored by the datelines on the news bulletins of his death as they poured onto Google from around the world: International News Service -- Australia, African News Division, the Malaysia Sun, India FM, Alberta Daily Herald Tribune, Ghana's Joy Online, Vietnam News, the London Times ... and, of course, every paper in the United States.
I had seen Don's show a few times, but I regret I never got to meet him. It was one of those things I was saving up to do: watch lava pour into the ocean, visit the telescopes on Mauna Kea ... meet Don Ho. Sadly, Don Ho lulled me and many others into believing that, like those other Hawaii famous landmarks, he would be here forever.
ONE MAN I did meet was Chuck Marsland, Honolulu's first elected city prosecutor, who died last week at age 84. He was a crime fighter in the mold of Gary Cooper in "High Noon," one of Hawaii's great characters, bigger than life at a time when that was needed. Because the criminals were also bigger than life -- infamous villains like crime boss Henry Huihui and underworld hit man Ronnie Ching -- whom Marsland eventually busted for killing Marsland's own 19-year-old son, as well as a state senator and drug informant. It was his son's death that led Chuck to become the tough-talking crusader against organized crime and soft judges.
There was a soft side to him, too, that people didn't see. I have a black-and-white photo of Chuck and me at his Portlock home in 1984. He's playing with his dogs, one of them a poodle. I doubt anyone would have pegged the crusty crime fighter as a poodle man. And after his many, many community speaking engagements, where he was presented with leis, he always took the leis to his son's grave at Punchbowl Cemetery. I went with him once, and the grave was practically covered with the garlands.
THE THIRD person who died recently was someone you might know from his many letters to the editor: Kailua tour business owner Dieter Thate. He was killed when his SUV slammed into an asphalt truck on notoriously perilous Kapaa Quarry road.
Ironically, Thate often wrote of the dangers of Honolulu's roads, both for pedestrians and those in cars. For chicken skin, you only have to read his last letter to the editor just a month ago: "I am not a pedestrian that often. But yesterday I was on a sidewalk in Kailua ... when a car sped into the parking lot. ... I had to jump aside not to get hit. ... When we abide by the speed limit, we should be able to stop on time. Let's not forget what makes Hawaii so special -- the aloha spirit!"
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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