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Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Campaign 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Big Island mayoral candidate Dr. Fred Holschuh and his
wife, Diane, are working on their home in Honokaa.

Healer wants to
treat Big Isle’s ills

Dr. Fred Holschuh has
found that to help, you
must also treat the causes

By Rod Thompson
Big Island correspondent

HILO -- Off the coast of Panama, a Caribbean island mother brought her baby son, gasping for breath, to a group of American adventurers one night in 1959.

Big Island Democratic mayoral candidate Fred Holschuh was a 19-year-old engineering student back then, but for no special reason he'd been designated medic on the "expedition."

Drawing on a remedy his mother had used, Holschuh treated the baby and started thinking about a new profession.

Later, as a medical student, he visited a clinic in Guatemala. The doctor there said it wasn't enough to cure illness. A doctor needed to treat the conditions, like poverty, that cause illness.

The desire to treat the Big Island's problems is why Holschuh is running for Hawaii County mayor now, he says.

Holschuh's German immigrant grandfather ran a saloon in New York. The saloonkeeper's son became an engineer.

From Fred Holschuh, special to the Star-Bulletin
Big Island mayoral candidate Fred Holschuh, left,
in his younger days, stands with his father, a former
president of the Sperry Corp. who invented the
belly turret for B-17 bombers during World War II.

One day in high school, a teacher asked Holschuh if he was related to "The Wonder Boy of Sperry." Only then did he learn that his father was president of Sperry Corp. and had invented the belly turret for B-17 bombers during World War II. "He wanted us to be kind of normal kids," Holschuh says.

His father missed that mark when he sent a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick up the boy from the public school he attended.

Holschuh ran across a field, climbed a fence and walked home.

As a boy on Long Island, Holschuh liked to roam the woods, hunting with a BB gun. He spent summers working on his uncle's dairy in New Jersey.

By the time he was 16, he was also drinking heavily, partly the result of a self-image problem from being overweight.

Finally, his parents talked to him, and Holschuh quit cold turkey. The bout with alcohol taught him compassion for victims of substance abuse.

He also understands nicotine addiction. "My mom died of lung cancer," he says.

Cultural odyssey

Holschuh dropped out of college in 1959 to join an adventure -- traveling the length of South America in a six-wheel-drive World War II boat on wheels called a DUKW, or "duck."

It was during that trip that he helped the baby by having him breathe steam.

Later in the trip, Holschuh contracted hepatitis and nearly died.

But he survived, with memories of poverty in out-of-the-way places. After medical school he spent 1968-70 on Hopi and Navajo reservations treating sickness and taking part in ceremonies.

In 1973 he joined noted heart surgeon Michael DeBakey on a trip to China. While Chinese doctors performed brain surgery, Holschuh asked a question about the patient. The doctor asked the patient, who was anesthetized by acupuncture yet wide awake.

A surfer friend had introduced Holschuh to another out-of-the-way place in 1967: Hawaii.

In 1971, Holschuh helped create Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated Inc. The 28 years of emergency-room duty at Hilo Hospital that followed appear to have been both rewarding and taxing.

Gennie Kinney, the retired head of nursing instruction at UH-Hilo, says a woman told about Holschuh treating a man who was undergoing an acute psychotic episode. "When people come in psychotic on drugs, it's a really dangerous situation."

Between treating other patients, Holschuh came back to the man about 10 times, each time calming him more, Kinney says.

When her own son was in an auto accident, his first words to the ambulance driver were, "Is Dr. Holschuh on duty?" He never looked frazzled, she says.

But the stresses were real. At one time Holschuh drank 20 cups of coffee a day, he says. That habit led to surgery on his esophagus.

His place of escape was a small ranch with a cabin near Honokaa, purchased in 1974.

"For years I had no electricity, no phone and no hot running water in the house," he says.

The perfect woman to share the cabin -- and insist it be expanded -- was Diane Miyose of Kona, whom he married in 1981.

"What really impressed Fred was that I was a farmer's daughter," Diane says.

Holschuh went to Kona to get the blessing of Diane's parents. Her father liked him so much, he named a mango variety after him, the Big Fred.

Coping with hardships

As they continue to expand their house with their own hands in the cool uplands -- Holschuh driving his 20-year-old Yanmar tractor, Diane cutting fence posts with a chain saw -- the couple seem to have the perfect life.

Not so, says Diane. "Fred hasn't had an easy life. It's been pretty rough."

Her illustrations: A family member suffered a serious disease that took years to treat. Their dog developed cancer. A cow that Diane treated like a pet developed problems giving birth and had to be put to sleep.

Holschuh's parents came to live with them, and his mother died. His father has Alzheimer's.

"He's very sentimental, to the point where he's a pack rat," Diane says. When a fire destroyed all of his notes on the youthful DUKW trip, the basis of a book he planned to write someday, "he was pretty upset," she recalls.

But mostly he's even-tempered. "I can't remember him ever raising his voice with me," she says.

Holschuh says: "I got from my mom a real sensitivity to people. I feel very sorry for people suffering emotionally or physically."

From his father, the engineer, he learned, "Always anticipate your next move."

Last year, Holschuh retired from full-time work as a doctor. If elected, he anticipates one of his major tasks would be "helping to heal the economy, the wounded economy" of East Hawaii.

Meet the candidate

Bullet Name: Frederick C. Holschuh
Bullet Born: Nov. 27, 1940, Orange, N.J.
Bullet Residence: Honokaa
Bullet Family: Wife Diane Miyose; three grown children from previous marriage
Bullet Education: Huntington (Long Island) High School, 1958; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, B.S., 1963; Columbia University, M.D.,1967
Bullet Professional: Queen's Hospital, 1967; U.S. Public Health Service, Hopi Reservation, Arizona, 1968-70; Kauikeaolani Children's Hospital, 1970; co-founded Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated, 1971; Hilo Hospital, 1972-2000; president, Hawaii Medical Association, 1995; HMA Physician of the Year, 1997; current status: occasional emergency-room duty
Bullet Political: Democratic candidate, state Senate District 1 (North Hawaii), 1998, unsuccessful Election Results
State Office of Elections

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