LAWRENCE THOMAS ZERKEL / 1936-2008
Newsman was a leader on TV and radio broadcasts
Lawrence Thomas "Larry" Zerkel, a pioneering Honolulu newsman and community service leader, died Friday of lung cancer. He was 71 and lived in Kaaawa.
In addition to broadcast news, he also worked with troubled youth
Zerkel had only learned of his cancer in April and was undergoing treatment, said his wife of 25 years, Cevza.
Born in 1936 in Chicago, Zerkel attended the University of Chicago, then went to New York, hoping to become an actor. He later appeared in "Pearl," a miniseries about the Pearl Harbor bombings.
After he was drafted by the Army and injured, he worked for the Voice of America, the government's news service, where he learned about working in broadcast media, his wife said.
Afterward, Zerkel worked for the American Red Cross in San Francisco and later Honolulu in the late 1960s. Zerkel established himself as an anchor at KHON in the early '70s.
In 1978, according to family and friends, he helped start KHPR, Hawaii's first public radio station.
In the 1980s he created and operated a one-man news department at KIKU-TV, an independently owned television station that later became KHNL-TV. He also worked as a reporter at KITV.
"Larry was always the most warmhearted guys that you'd ever want to meet," said Tom Garbish, a cameraman for KHON, who had been friends with Zerkel for almost 40 years. "He just had a really big heart."
The two met at KHON in the early 1970s. At the time, Zerkel was known as Larry Thomas, using his middle name because it was easier to recall.
Zerkel broke away from broadcasting in the mid-'70s to start Hawaii Bound School on the Big Island, a nonprofit based on the national Outward Bound, which helps troubled teens by immersing them in nature.
He was "always trying to make people enjoy life and explore their own potential to the maximum and overcome their fear by being out in nature," his wife said. "It was something that gave them (the teens) tremendous inner strength."
In 1984, Zerkel returned to California, where he worked as a television reporter in San Francisco and Oakland. He returned to Hawaii in the 1990s and worked in 2004 as communication director for Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai).
Besides his wife, Zerkel is survived by brother Gordon; sons Adam of Hollywood, Calif., and Eric of Santa Fe, N.M.; and granddaughter Kira.
Services are pending.