Strong views, generosity filled work


POSTED: Saturday, February 14, 2009

Corky Trinidad expounded his unflinching political views and advocacy of human rights in memorable comic settings, establishing him as among the best in his profession.

But the longtime editorial cartoonist for the Star-Bulletin also will be fondly remembered for his mischievous smile, modest personality and unbounded generosity.

Funeral services for Trinidad, who died yesterday at age 69, are pending.

Father John Chandler of the Newman Center at the University of Hawaii-Manoa remembered him as someone with a “;quiet sense of humor,”; who liked things simple and who “;absolutely loved his family.”;

He also “;was just a person who had much more depth than anyone would believe when they first met him,”; Chandler said. “;He had some very strong opinions and was able to express them in ways that would make people think. He told me that that was one of his goals—not to confront, but to make people think.”;

Years ago, Trinidad did the original design for the Stations of the Cross stained-glass windows, as well as the processional cross behind the altar, at the Newman Center.

Trinidad's “;special gift was his ability to take strong and pointed stands yet be laugh-out-loud funny—and consistently so while being the most prolific cartoonist in the business,”; said former Star-Bulletin Managing Editor David Shapiro.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano counted Trinidad as a good friend: “;He was a giant in his field, in terms of wit (and) relevance,”; he said. “;Corky's work compared equally, if not better, to the nation's better-known cartoonists, such as Oliphant and others.”;

Former Gov. John Waihee said Trinidad “;was so perceptive with his cartoons,”; adding with a chuckle, “;not always complimentary to me. At least he made his point, whether I agreed with it or not. ... I think Hawaii is losing a great social commentator.”;

Another politician who made his way into Trinidad's cartoons was Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who said, “;Corky was the kind of individual we could count on to get us to react and respond. Sometimes he would put a knowing smile on our face, and at other times he would keep us grounded, all with his unique talent for drawing the political cartoon.”;

For Shapiro, “;Corky was a truly great journalist, one of the few I've worked with that I'd rate as one of the all-time best. He's the only journalist I've worked with that I'd say was irreplaceable.”;

When Trinidad first arrived at the Star-Bulletin, he sent managers into a panic.

“;They had offered him a job, but he had trouble getting papers to get out of the Philippines, so they assumed he wasn't coming and hired another cartoonist,”; Shapiro recalled. “;When Corky showed up to claim the job, they had to explain to the bean counters why we were the only newspaper in America with two cartoonists. Who would have guessed that the arrival of this unassuming man would define the Star-Bulletin for 40 years?”;

Who would have thought, indeed.

Trinidad's pixieish frame and schoolboy look cloaked a sharp mind able to depict the follies of the day or the foibles of the powers-that-be with quick, incisive strokes of the pen.

“;If he was aware of how great he was, you'd never know it from his easy and modest manner,”; Shapiro said. “;He was more entitled to play the prima donna than anybody I knew, but I can never recall him doing so.”;

In February 2005, retired Star-Bulletin News Editor Chuck Frankel introduced Trinidad when he was inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter's Hall of Fame.

“;Since 1969 he has skewered and slain the mighty and powerful, and he has entertained the readers of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,”; Frankel said in his speech.

But on a more mundane note, he also noted that Trinidad was not above “;being an assistant coffee maker in the years when a printer maintained a 10-cent-a-cup coffee enterprise in the newsroom on Kapiolani Boulevard. Corky made sure the pot didn't run dry.”;

Trinidad could have sold his cartoons for any amount of money, but he often would just give them away. Whenever someone retired or left the Star-Bulletin, a treasured going-away gift was a Corky caricature, signed by the staff.

Cayetano has many of Trinidad's cartoons hanging in his den, while former Star-Bulletin photographer Ken Sakamoto, who now lives in Victoria, Canada, said he has his treasured Corky cartoon hanging in his home.

Trinidad's son, Lorenzo, a clerk for the Star-Bulletin, said his father was generous with his time and talent, but “;he was very quiet about stuff. He never made it a point to say, 'Hey, I'm doing this'”; for someone or some group.

He spoke often to students, from grade school to high school, and even at the University of Hawaii.

“;He also taught several comic-book artists,”; including Stan Sakai, creator of the samurai-rabbit series “;Usagi Yojimbo,”; and Jon Murakami, whose “;Calabash”; comic appears in the Star-Bulletin, his son said.

Sharon Ishida, who retired after serving for years as secretary in the UH journalism program, said Trinidad was always there to help the program and taught cartooning at workshops for high school students. “;He was short in stature but a big man,”; she said.

UH journalism professor Gerald Kato recalled that Trinidad donated a caricature for a shirt that was made in support of the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “;I still wear the shirt,”; he said.

Dave Eveland, administrator for Ho'opono Services for the Blind, was shocked to hear of Trinidad's death.

He was “;a big help to us here,”; he said. Over the years, Ho'opono has made 10,000 to 15,000 copies of a comic strip Trinidad donated, depicting “;Helpful hints when you're with a blind person.”;

About 10 years ago, Trinidad also did a similar poster that was placed in all city buses to promote White Cane Day.

The list of people Trinidad has helped and projects he worked on is “;very vast,”; Lorenzo Trinidad said. “;I'm hoping that people will come forward to remind everyone of what he did.”;