MASON ALTIERY / 1928-2008
Respected journalist regretted his political foray
Mason Altiery, a former prominent television journalist in Hawaii who covered major world events including the Vietnam War, died Saturday, days after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 80.
His health had declined rapidly since March because of respiratory illnesses, according to his daughter Lisa Altiery Sosa. She asked that the details of his cancer diagnosis remain private.
Altiery was highly respected among his colleagues and his viewers as a television journalist during the 1960s and '70s, with a short-lived career in politics in between. Altiery, described as a sharp and insightful reporter, was one of the first Hawaii journalists to travel abroad to localize major international stories.
"He was a sharp reporter and one of the best," said Bob Berger, former president and general manager of news station KHVH, now known as KITV Channel 4, who hired Altiery. "Mason was very inquisitive. He would ask a lot of questions. His reports were excellent."
Altiery, who was part native Hawaiian and Italian, grew up in Kalihi and joined the Air Force after graduating from Roosevelt High School. After a three-year assignment abroad, he studied broadcast journalism in California thanks to the GI Bill before returning to Hawaii in 1952.
He became the news anchor for the 6 and 10 p.m. shows at KHVH when it was considered the No. 1 news station in Hawaii.
"He was the No. 1 guy on television in his time," said Bob Dye, who worked with Altiery under the Fasi administration in Honolulu Hale. "He was well respected. As a newscaster, he used to make people aware of social problems. I was surprised when he left journalism to do politics."
His daughter said it was partly pressure from other politicians that prompted Altiery to enter politics.
"Later he said it was one of his big mistakes in life," Sosa said. "He was a really independent man. He made mistakes, learned from them and carried on in a way that was very dignified. He did mention to me that he had wished he stayed in television."
Altiery was an executive assistant for former Mayor Frank Fasi. In 1968 he worked for U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink in Washington, D.C., before winning a seat in the state Senate in 1970. As senator, his daughter said, he was most proud of stopping development in Moiliili and preserving the Stadium Park.
"He was not the pro-development kind of guy," Sosa said. "He was Old Hawaii. He wanted to preserve the charm and the beauty of Hawaii for the people. That's what he stood for."
In a surprise move, Altiery ran unsuccessfully against his former boss, Fasi, in 1972 for mayor amid pressure from Fasi's critics.
After being accused of failing to file his campaign filing reports -- accusations later dismissed -- Altiery returned to television for several more years.
In his later years, Altiery enjoyed gardening with his daughter. When he was more active, he enjoyed surfing, boating and golfing.
He is also survived by former wife Mona, brother Marvin Zoller and sister Emma Louise Reigle.
His ashes will be scattered 10 a.m. June 21 at the Honolulu Elks Lodge in Waikiki.