Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, January 3, 2002

CHARLIE AIU / 1954-2001

Damien grad played
for Chargers in NFL

By Dave Reardon

Although Charlie Aiu made it to the NFL, he never quite grabbed the spotlight. That's how it is for most offensive linemen, and it suited his humble style.

Some of it was timing.

Aiu, who played 34 games at guard for the San Diego Chargers from 1976 to 1978, just missed the Chargers' golden era, when "Air Coryell" became one of the most flamboyant offenses in pro football history.

Aiu, 47, a former Damien and Hawaii football standout, died of complications from lymphoma Friday at Castle Medical Center.

Aiu also played one game in 1978 for the Seattle Seahawks. But a back injury ended his career at age 24.

"The doctors told him he could end up paralyzed if he kept trying to play," said Greg Tavares, Aiu's friend and supervisor at the state's public defender's office, where Aiu worked as an investigator.

Hawaii coach June Jones and Aiu were teammates at UH.

"He was a self-made guy, a hard worker," Jones said. "He earned everything he got. He was a tough guy with great pass-blocking ability."

Tavares has known Aiu since 1974.

"At first they told us he'd be back to work in December, but then it changed to the end of March," Tavares said. "Then he just stopped breathing.

"Some guys let themselves go after they get out of football, but he didn't, he was in great shape," Tavares said. "That makes this even sadder."

Aiu underwent an appendectomy in August, Tavares said. At that time, the lymphoma was found, and it was in an aggressive stage. Chemotherapy treatment began almost immediately.

Tavares said Aiu was so good at his job that he was nominated for state Employee of the Year. He had also received honors for his work as a security officer at the Sheraton Waikiki.

"He was a typical big guy with a big heart," Tavares said. "He was a quiet, hard worker who was always determined to improve in the things he did."

Charles Kaho'alii Aiu III is survived by his wife, Noelani Cashman-Aiu, daughter Cashman Kinohi Aiu, father Charles K. Aiu Jr., mother Mildred W. Aiu, sisters Janella, Charlene, Camille and Marilyn Aiu, and nieces, nephews and grandnieces.

Memorial services are Sunday at the Kamehameha Schools chapel, with visitation at 1:30 p.m. followed by services at 2:30 p.m. Ashes will be scattered at Kailua Beach following the services. Aloha attire is requested.

Tavares and other friends are planning a golf tournament in Aiu's memory and to defray medical expenses.

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