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Friday, January 14, 2000

Patricia K. Putman
mixed law and medicine


By Leila Fujimori


She designed Hawaii's health care act to get medical insurance for part-time workers. She pushed for women's rights through legislation she drafted. And she helped change medical malpractice laws to avoid frivolous lawsuits and forestall expensive litigation.

And Patricia Klein Putman accomplished much more.

Putman, retired associate dean of legal and legislative affairs at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii, died Dec. 5 at 77.

"Like lots of impressive people, she didn't make a big thing of herself," said Terence Rogers, former dean of the school. "She had that kind of driving intelligence that gets things done. And she wasn't into cooking and baking."

Fortunately for the medical school, Putman was into lawyering. In the 1970s, she was instrumental in finalizing contracts with Hawaii's major hospitals when the school became a four-year institution. She got the University of Hawaii staff and students malpractice insurance coverage.

"She was a very good lawyer for the law school and turned off many frivolous complaints," Rogers said. She was feisty but didn't make a public fuss.

After graduating from the University of California-Berkeley's Boalt School of Law in 1959, where she was one of seven women in a class of 180, she came to Hawaii. She initially worked for the Legislative Reference Bureau.

In a 1972 Star-Bulletin interview, Putman predicted changes to laws onthe rights of illegitimate children and their fathers, as well as homosexual relationships.

Putman did not limit herself to helping the public. She mentored young women who were secretaries, and many went on to law school.

"She treated them like daughters who needed a push," Rogers said. She also had a good rapport with the medical students and mentored some of them as well, particularly women, and "they've done very well. She was one of the few people around UH who actually mentored young women."

Putman is survived by husband Edison, son Edison K., daughter Jennifer and brothers Ervine and Lawrence Klein.

No services will be held. Contributions may be made to the UH Foundation for the John A. Burns School of Medicine, Bachman Hall, 2444 Dole St., Room 101, Honolulu 96822.

Sales and credit manager
Conniff motivated others

By Leila Fujimori


George Winfield Conniff built relationships with clients when sales meant putting your foot in the door and pushing your product.

Conniff, 92, of Kailua, former president of the Credit Bureau of Hawaii and longtime secretary of the Hawaii Association of Credit Management, died Tuesday.

"He was a very motivating person, combined with the unique quality of a sense of humor," said Paul C.T. Loo, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's manager. "He was an early leader of sales management."

Loo credits his success to what he learned from the man who gave him his first job. Conniff encouraged other young people, and many like Loo went on to successful careers.

During difficult economic times, Conniff helped young people in the business find new jobs when they lost their old ones. "He was a compassionate, caring man who hated to see young people lose heart," his wife said.

He also encouraged women in the field. His wife, Mary Katherine, recalls the day Conniff came home and declared: "They made me an honorary woman." He had spoken that morning in 1959 to the Credit Women's Breakfast Club. "All these years we've teased him about it."

Conniff met Mary Katherine, who was sent to Hawaii by the U.S. Office of Education, the day she arrived in Hawaii in 1946. The Colorado-born man had just settled in Hawaii upon discharge from the Navy after having served in World War II.

His ashes will be scattered on Mount Olomana, where his only daughter's ashes were scattered two years ago.

Longtime Hawaiian
entertainer Leinaala
Simerson dies at 71

By Harold Morse


Leinaala Simerson, the mother of singer Nohelani Cypriano and longtime Hawaiian entertainer who did the hula for such notables as Elvis Presley, died Saturday in Queen's Medical Center. She was 71.

Born in Honolulu, her education included St. Francis Convent School and Farrington High School. But her real life was Hawaiian entertainment.

Leinaala got to know Presley and other celebrities both through her own career and that of her enterprising husband, Earl Kalani Simerson, once Waikiki's leading fire-knife dancer, who branched out to own Royal FSP limousine service.

Of the many celebrities he transported, Presley was a favorite. "Police Lt. Harry Konn and I gave him a send-off in the airport Governor's Lounge when he left," he said in 1973. "My wife, Leinaala, and her hula troupe performed, and we gave Elvis' party 24 carnation leis. They had tears in their eyes. Elvis said he never had a send-off like that before."

Leinaala Simerson knew many famous people. At an Alfred Apaka memorial tribute in 1990 on the 30th anniversary of his death, she recalled how Apaka would come to see her hula troupe perform at the Waikiki Sands. When the Sands closed, Apaka hired them to perform for luaus at the Kaiser Village, now Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Simerson did more than sing and dance. She played a number of instruments and was entertainment director for Chuck Machado Luaus.

In addition to her husband and Nohelani, she is survived by another daughter, Michelle Reicherter; sisters Eleanor Duenas, Amy Keawe and Rachel Igarta; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A musical celebration of Leinaala Simerson's life is planned Jan. 22 at Star of the Sea Church, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mass will be said and special guest presentations will be given from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Burial will follow at 3 p.m. in Diamond Head Memorial Park, with a reception and entertainment from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Star of the Sea Cafeteria.

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