ALBERT MONIZ / 1917-2007
Transit kept him moving
He was the president of the company that operated TheBus
Albert Moniz, who helped the city take over the privately run bus system on Oahu in 1971, died Sunday. He was 89.
Moniz retired in 1987 as president and general manager of MTL Inc., the private company that operated TheBus, after a 50-year career in transportation.
He was suffering from lung problems and Alzheimer's and died at his home in Aina Haina with family at his bedside, said his wife, Ritsuko.
"He was very caring, a good husband of 61 years and a good father as well," she said. "We had a marvelous time together."
Born in Honolulu, Moniz was only 19 when he was hired as assistant clerk for Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co. in 1937, one year after graduating from President Theodore Roosevelt High School.
Moniz met Ritsuko, who also worked in the company, in 1942, and they married four years later. He would often go from work to play piano in a band to make extra cash to buy a home and start a family, said Ritsuko, 84.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Moniz helped organize a force of soldier bus drivers to supplement regular employees as ridership soared. Trolleys and buses ran at night without headlights because of fear of additional attacks, said Roger Morton, who was Moniz's assistant for nine years and now heads Oahu Transit Services.
"I was a young kid, and he was kind of intimidating, really," Morton said about his first meeting with Moniz in 1974. "He was a guy that you just could tell had a lot of knowledge and experience."
In the 1950s, Baltimore businessman Harry Weinberg acquired HRT and asked Moniz to serve as his vice president after seeing how passionate he was about transportation, Morton said.
"I think that said a lot about what kind of guy he was," Morton said.
Throughout the 1960s, Moniz and his wife traveled to several mainland states to meet with local transit managers and bring back ideas to the island. In 1996, Moniz was inducted into the American Public Transportation Association Transit Hall of Fame.
In 1971, when about 350 bus drivers led a strike against HRT, then-Mayor Frank Fasi asked Moniz and his partners to form a new organization to run transit as a public service. The company MTL Inc., was established, and TheBus began operations on March 1 of that year under Moniz's leadership.
Throughout his tenure, Moniz maintained good relations with the Teamsters Union, then headed by Art Rutledge, Morton said.
"Negotiations in those days were usually conducted at a private hut at the Tahitian Lanai rather than before the news cameras," Morton recalled. "He was very popular with transit employees and could usually be found at employees' weddings, luaus and funerals."
During his retirement, Moniz kept in touch with old co-workers, was a regular at the Elks Club and continued traveling overseas to meet friends he had made on the job.
"He maintained a very active social life. He collected friends the way many people collect stamps," Morton said. "He was a wonderful man and I miss him a lot."
Moniz is also survived by daughters Barbara Jean Moniz Tomita, Ann Naomi Moniz Suen and Linda Joyce Moniz Petersen; daughter-in-law Pamela Moniz; and nine grandchildren. A memorial service will be held next Saturday at Holy Nativity Church in Aina Haina. Visitation will be from noon to 2 p.m. with a service to follow.