Saturday, September 4, 1999

Underwater hero
‘Billy’ Hughes dies

In 1944 he rescued a Navy diver
who had been trapped under
a ship for three days

By Mary Adamski


William J. "Billy" Hughes donned a diving suit and heavy helmet to work underwater on construction, shipyard and salvage jobs for more than 30 years.

The one story his family remembers hearing from him is about the time he searched under a sunken Navy ship in Pearl Harbor and rescued a Navy diver who had been trapped there for three days.

"I never felt so happy," Hughes said in a 1997 Star-Bulletin interview.

The amazing rescue never made headlines at the time, though. The event known as the West Loch disaster occurred in the midst of World War II and was kept secret for 20 years. It was on May 21, 1944, that a munitions explosion aboard an LST (landing ship-tank) destroyed six ships, killing 163 men and injuring 396.

Hughes received Christmas cards for years from the rescued man, whom he knew as "Chief Brown," said his granddaughter, Bonnie McCann.

Hughes, 87, died Thursday in Queen's Hospital.

McCann said he kept a boot from his diving suit at his home, and it has amused grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"We all remember trying to lift that boot," she said. "It must weigh 50 pounds."

In the 1997 interview, Hughes recalled working on underwater salvage operations after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. He said he worked on the USS Nevada and the USS Utah, and helped refloat a sunken dry dock.

At the time, he said, he was afraid he would be taken off the work force because he was one-quarter Japanese, and his Japanese co-workers were not allowed on base.

His career in underwater construction included work on the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state and at Kwajalein and Johnston islands. He worked for Pacific Bridge Co. and Hawaiian Dredging Co.

He and another carpenter built the Kapahulu home where he lived with Clara, his wife of 63 years.

He is also survived by sons Billy, Roger, Chester and Stephen; daughter Donna Takasaki; sisters Rose Estes, Sarah Johnson and Catherine Madriaga; brother Donald "Patrick" Hughes; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services are pending. Diamond Head Mortuary is handling arrangements.

Peter Gilman, 73,
wrote best seller
‘Diamond Head’

By Star-Bulletin staff


Peter Gilman, 73, journalist and author, died in Hilo on Sept. 1.

Gilman, a reporter for the Star-Bulletin in the 1950s, was the author of "Diamond Head," which became No. 1 on the Best Seller List of the New York Times. The book was sold to Columbia Pictures in 1959 for $100,000, the highest price paid by a studio to an unknown author at the time.

The 1960 film, "Diamond Head," starred Charleton Heston.

Born in New York and trained as a Navy pilot in World War II, Gilman graduated from UCLA and worked for the Monterey Peninsula Herald, the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

He was a publicist for NBC before moving to Paris where he became a member of the ex-patriot circle of American writers which included William Styron, Jack Kerouac, James Jones and James Baldwin.

Gilman was also a trainer of polo ponies in Argentina and an artist and commercial fisherman in Mexico.

He is survived by three sons, Dante Gilman, of Hilo, John Gilman, of Alaska, and Nicholas Kirszenzaft, of Paris, and two sisters, Mary Gafney, of Claremont, California, and Nancy Gilman, of Hobe Sound, Fla.

Services are pending.

Maria B. Aguilar, 72, of Makakilo, died Aug. 22 in Wahiawa General Hospital. She was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico. She is survived by husband Manuel Escalera and sister Dominga Campos. No services. Scattering of ashes: 10 a.m. Wednesday off of Waikiki Aquarium.

Dr. Marcelino J. Avecilla, a retired physician specializing in general surgery, died Tuesday in St. Francis Hospital. He was also a World War II veteran. He was born in La Union, the Philippines. He is survived by wife Aida A., daughters Dr. Zenaida Avecilla Sadorra and Dr. Rebecca Avecilla Lucero, sons Victor Avecilla and Ramon Sevilla, sister Irinea Abat, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Mass: 9 a.m. Thursday at Sts. Peter and Paul Church. Call after 8 a.m. Burial: Nuuanu Memorial Park.

Abraham A. "Abel" Donnell, 67, of Makakilo, a retired rigger at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, died Aug. 25 in Kaiser Hospital. He was born in Honolulu. He is survived by wife Veronica M. "Verna"; son Abraham B.; daughters Debra M. Napoleon, Nathlie A. Lorenzo, Cindy J. Donnell and Sasha Kahele; brother Bernard; sisters Emily Yates and Beatrice Kidd; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. Services: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Mililani Mortuary-Waipio, mauka chapel. Call after 9:30 a.m. Burial: Mililani Memorial Park. Casual attire.

Nicolas E. Flores, 88, of Honolulu, a retired employee of Spencecliff Restaurants, died Aug. 25 in Honolulu. He was born in the Philippines. Private inurnment.

Neal K. Gomes, 38, of Napili, Maui died Wednesday at home. He was born in Wailuku. He is survived by brothers Anthony, Earl, Chico and Gregory. Services: 10:30-11 a.m. Monday at Waiola Church in Lahaina. Call after 9 a.m. Scattering of ashes: Kahana Bay.

Louise Ann Ho, 80, of Honolulu, a retired trimmer for Dole Pineapple Cannery, died Monday in Honolulu. She was born in Honolulu. She is survived by son Richard D.S. Jr., brothers Daniel and Leonard Piimanu, sister Eleanor Richards, two grandsons, and two great-grandchildren. Memorial services: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Mililani Downtown Mortuary.

Nancy A. Knight, 72, of Honolulu, a clinical psychologist, died Monday in Honolulu. She was born in Herkimer, N.Y. She is survived by daughters Susan R. Knight and Lucinda Knight Morrison; sons Gregory J., Dr. Andrew A. and Allen J.; sister Marion Stark; and six grandchildren. Services: 5 p.m. Tuesday at Church of the Crossroads. Inurnment: 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl. Casual attire. No flowers.

Lawrence Leong, 39, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a lawn specialist for a yard maintenance company, died last Saturday in New Orleans. He was born in Honolulu. He is survived by son Stephen D.K., daughter Leah L., sisters Nani Leong and Sandra Bottum, and brothers Myron and Webster. Services: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary. Call from 6 to 9 p.m. Services: 10 a.m. Wednesday at the mortuary. Call after 9 a.m. Burial: Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery. Casual attire.

Precila P. Llapitan, 69, of Kekaha, Kauai, died Thursday in Wilcox Hospital. She was born in Pasuquin, the Philippines. She is survived by husband Aniceto; sons Eddie and Leonardo; daughter Tessie Kouchi; brother Artemio Palacay; sisters Dionicia Tambio, Juana Valdez, Marcelina Palacay, Guadalupe Tempra, Concepcion Acosta and Remedios Langaman, and five grandchildren. Services: 3 p.m. Sunday at West Kauai United Methodist Church in Kekaha. Call after 1 p.m. Burial: Kekaha Public Cemetery. Casual attire.

Melissa A. Martinez, 20, of Hilo, a student at the University of Hawaii, died last Saturday in Honolulu. Born in Yokosuka, Japan, she is survived by father Vicente M. Jr.; mother Inocencia; brothers Vicente III and Jhumar; sisters Marlene, Michele and Jhunavee; grandparents Federico Martinez and Delfin Agcaoili; and guardian Dr. Patricia Nishimoto. Wake services: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Mililani Mortuary-Waipio, mauka chapel. Call from 6 to 9 p.m. Mass: 11:15 a.m. Thursday at St. Joseph Church. Call after 9 a.m. Burial: Mililani Memorial Park.

Robert S. Mowry Jr., 84, of Honolulu, a former welder, died Monday in Honolulu. He is survived by wife Thelma; daughters Shirley Anne Schreiber, Michelle Mowry, Carol Oliver and Lynne Reinhardt; son James M. Reinhardt; sister Edith M. Doyle; seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Memorial services: 10 a.m. Thursday at Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary. Aloha attire.

Dr. Masaichi "Mas" Oishi, 75, of Kailua, a retired dentist, died Tuesday in Kuakini Hospital. He was born in Kapaa, Kauai. He is survived by wife Kazumae; sons Dr. Stephen, Dr. Martin and Dr. Calvin; daughter Donna Leibowitz; brothers Noboru and Robert; sisters Grace Kagawa and Kay and Akiyo Oishi; and eight grandchildren. Private services.

Elsie K. Okuhara, 82, of Honolulu, a retired seamstress, died Wednesday in Straub Hospital. She was born in Papaikou, Hawaii. She is survived by husband Kiyoshi; son Thomas K.; daughters Janet H. Woo, Iris N. Miyata and Myra S. Hasegawa; brother Tadanobu Higa; sister Mildred M. Imamura; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Services: 6 p.m. Wednesday at Hosoi Garden Mortuary. Aloha attire. No flowers.

William S. Price, 71, of La Jolla, Calif., formerly of Hawaii, executive vice president of Crumb & Forster, died Tuesday. He was also president of First Insurance Co. of Hawaii Ltd. He was born in Paris. He is survived by wife Patricia, brother Thomas A., stepbrother Charles McDougal, daughter Sandra Brzezniak, son William S. III, and four grandchildren. Services on the mainland. Donations suggested to the American Heart Association.

Misayo "Mildred" Sakoda, 78, of Hanapepe, Kauai, a retired proprietor of Sakoda Garage in Hanapepe, died Wednesday in Kauai Veterans Hospital. She was born in Lihue. She is survived by sons Stanley, Rodney and Kent, and sisters Kiyoko Imizo, Kimiyo Sakoda, Chikayo Ichiyama and Yoshiko Kano. Services: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Hanapepe Hongwanji Mission. Call after 4 p.m. Casual attire. No flowers.

Jane M. Shimogawa, 94, of Aiea died Aug. 8 at home. She was born in Koloa, Kauai. She is survived by son Frank, daughters Janet Ingils and Eunice Asada, eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. Private services.

Charles T. Tanaka, 81, of Honolulu, a retired carpenter, died Wednesday in Queen's Hospital. He was born in Honolulu. He is survived by wife Elizabeth, brother Henry Sugai, and sisters Helen Morikawa and Rose Fukuda. No services.

Lucerio O. Yumang, 74, of Mililani, died Monday in Mililani. He was born in Pampanga, the Philippines. He is survived by wife Consolacion A.; sons Arcangelo, Fidel, Rosauro and Amando; daughters Rosario Yumang, Guadalupe Pangisban, Candida Navarro, Cristina Arcangel and Marcie Wong; brothers Gavino and Alfonso Yumol, 24 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Mass: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. John Apostles & Evangelist Church. Call after 9:30 a.m. Burial in the Philippines. Casual attire. No flowers.

You can also search the Hawaii State Library System's
Hawaii Newspaper Index online for older obituaries at:
The index, which goes back several decades,
is available via Telnet software.

E-mail to City Desk

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