Football legend,Bill Kwon reflects on
Five-0 actor Herman
By Mary Adamski
One of Hawaii's most famous athletes, Herman J. Wedemeyer, died yesterday in Queen's Hospital. He was 74.
Wedemeyer was named to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame for his 1945 role as an All-American running back for St. Mary's College in California.
He was still revered as an outstanding athlete more than 50 years after his headline-making college career, which was the topic of a 1997 Sports Illustrated feature. He was active as a successful amateur golfer familiar in recent years as a marshal and first-tee announcer at the Hawaiian Open and other golf tournaments.
Wedemeyer was just as widely known for his part in the cast of the "Hawaii Five-O" television series. He played a Hawaiian policeman, "Duke Lukela," from 1968 until the popular series ended in 1980.
He was elected to a term on the City Council and two terms in the state House of Representatives.
"After all the years of exposure on 'Five-O,' with people always approaching him, he was still gracious and thanked them for recognizing him," said longtime friend Byron Feldman.
"He was the greatest gentleman with people, so polite. He made everybody feel good."
Feldman, who had played football on an opposing team and in recent years shared the golf-tournament announcing job with his friend, said Wedemeyer had not been able to return to the golf course since heart-bypass surgery last summer.
"He had all the grace and coordination of a natural athlete," Feldman said. "He moved from one sport to another. He played golf like a pro. When we played pro-am, he was out-driving the pro."
Fellow "Hawaii Five-O" actor Harry Endo said, "I treasured acting with him. He was a popular fellow on the set. I was impressed with his humble nature. He was unassuming, very personable ... not what you'd expect. You'd expect an All-American football player to be boisterous sometimes.
"He was an all-around athlete, a great golfer. He took me aside and improved my game 100 percent," said Endo, who joined Wedemeyer as part of a regular Waialae Country Club group "first off the tee Saturday mornings."
Wedemeyer didn't get national Hall of Fame recognition until 1979, and in 1997, he was one of the first local sports heroes to be honored at a new Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.
But he was an island sports legend since playing football for St. Louis High School. Known as "Squirmin' Herman," he went on to play at the small California college on the team that took it to the Sugar Bowl and the Oil Bowl. His time at St. Mary's was interrupted for service in the Merchant Marine.
After graduation, he tried a brief career in professional football.
After his return to Hawaii, Wedemeyer was employed by several businesses including Dairyman's Association, the Ilikai Hotel and the Makaha Valley Golf Club. He retired from Servco Pacific as vice president for automotive marketing and merchandising.
Survivors include his wife, Carol, and brother, Charlie, also a former college football great, who has fought a long battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.
Also surviving are six children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are pending.