Saturday, June 23, 2001

Man leaves $1.5
million to libraries

By Lisa Asato

A San Francisco multimillionaire who loved libraries and often visited Honolulu left half his estate -- more than $1.5 million -- to two Hawaii libraries.

Kenneth Holfman, a retired private school teacher who died in 1998, first made contact with Hawaii State Library Director Caroline Spencer about five years ago. The two met for a brief conversation, and Holfman asked what he could do or buy for the library. Soon after, he donated a $2,000 glass display case that today sits on the second floor of the King Street library, Spencer said yesterday.

"He was a very nice person, easy to talk to, just a real gentleman," she said.

The $1.5 million was evenly split between the main library and the Waikiki-Kapahulu branch. Spencer said the main site has spent some of its share updating computers and plans to create a homework center for children.

"I understand he liked kids, so that will be nice," she said.

The Waikiki Library has used $100,000 for renovations, making facilities accessible to people with disabilities, refinishing tables and replacing about 70 chairs "that dated from the time the library was built in 1952," said Stephanie Strickland, branch manager.

Bobby Bouneff, who was Holfman's lawyer for a decade, said Holfman left the bulk of his estate to the two Hawaii libraries and two Northern California entities, one a religious institute and the other a housing project.

Bouneff said Holfman's will also "provided that he (leave) certain small legacies to a great number of people, including me. He left me $10,000."

Holfman came from an influential family in Portland, Ore.

"Kenneth was especially fond of libraries," Bouneff said, surmising that as a shy child, libraries provided a sanctuary that opened the world to him. "During his lifetime he gave sizable chunks to the University of California-Berkeley library and $50,000 to the Multnomah County library in Oregon."

Caroline Dvojacki, executive director of Friends of the Library of Hawaii, called the gift "unsolicited, out of the sky and incredibly wonderful."

She said the last time the library saw such a sizable donation was in 1931 when Andrew Carnegie donated $100,000 to build the Hawaii State Library.

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