Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Myron "Pinky" Thompson.

Ex-trustee ‘Pinky’
Thompson dies at 77

He will be remembered for work
in health, education, social services
and preserving Hawaiian culture

More obituaries

By Treena Shapiro and Pat Omandam |

Former Bishop Estate trustee Myron "Pinky" Thompson, a leader in the native Hawaiian community for more than three decades, died last night in the Queen's Medical Center after a long battle with cancer.

He was 77.

Family spokeswoman Paula Akana said that Thompson will be remembered for his work in health, education, social services and preserving Hawaiian culture.

In 1975, Thompson created a statewide healthcare system for native Hawaiians and helped start Alu Like, Inc., to obtain federal funding for native Hawaiians in job training, health, housing, education and native rights.

Alu Like co-founder Winona Ellis Rubin said more than 100,000 Hawaiians have benefited from the services.

"Pinky was an extraordinary individual whose intent was to help improve conditions for all people and especially native Hawaiians and he made a tremendous difference in his lifetime," Rubin said.

Thompson also served as president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and his son Nainoa was a master navigator on the voyaging canoe Hokulea.

As a Bishop Estate trustee, Thompson was instrumental in developing early education programs and improving the Kamehameha Schools outreach programs in the Department of Education and the community.

"It's a sad day," said Office of Hawaiian Affairs chairman Clayton Hee, who got to know Thompson in 1991, when both served on the board of a native Hawaiian culture and arts program.

Hee said Thompson was one of the prime movers to establish federal legislation to continue native culture and arts for the people of Hawaii.

Thompson's focus on early education programs through Kamehameha Schools was revolutionary for the time and left an enduring legacy, Hee said.

"That's by far his biggest contribution, because it's a gift that will live on and will not only benefit that Hawaiian child but will benefit society," said Hee, a former teacher.

"He was the ultimate social worker. He knew that children needed help during those very early years," said Beadie Dawson, Thompson's public information officer when he was executive director of the state Department of Social Services and Housing in the early 1970s.

Thompson earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Colby College in Maine and his master's degree in social work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"He was very open, very honest and had a way of dealing with people where this honesty always shone through," Dawson said.

"He was never afraid to admit mistakes the state had made or personnel had made. He was totally up front. (Reporters) knew they could always go to him and get straight stories."

Former Gov. George Ariyoshi remembered Thompson as a trusted administrator for Gov. John A. Burns in the late 1960s. Burns "was always going to Pinky to ask about Hawaiian issues and community needs," Ariyoshi said.

From 1962 to 1967, Thompson was executive director of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust. He also worked as director of the Salvation Army Child Welfare Service and served as the first chairman of the State Land Use Commission.

Dawson said she had met Thompson when they were both at Punahou School. "He was a big football star and I was a lowly little school kid."

Long-time friend Roy Benham said he had known Thompson practically all his life -- through Kamehameha Schools, canoe paddling and the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

As immediate past president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Thompson was responsible for many of the federal grants Kamehameha received, because of his willingness to travel to Washington to work with Congress, Benham said.

The two had also paddled together, Benham said, although he refused to join Thompson in the "makule" crew for older paddlers. "Grandpas and everyone would paddle with that one. He always looked good in the makule crew," Benham said.

As Gov. Ben Cayetano reflected recently on Hawaii's political history, he cited Thompson as one those toughened by war who made a difference in the islands.

During the invasion of Normandy, Thompson was shot in the head by a German sniper and was put with the wounded expected to die while medics concentrated on those they felt they could save, Cayetano said.

A group of Thompson's friends insisted, however, that doctors try to save him.

"And you know, he survived and when he came back, he helped to build a better Hawaii," Cayetano said.

Thompson is survived by wife Laura Thompson, daughter Lita, sons Myron and Nainoa, sister Kamaoli Miyamoto and brother Henry.

Services are pending.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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