[ RUSSELL KONO / 1918-2003 ]

Patience of isle judge
and lawyer never waned

As a soldier, a lawyer, a lawmaker and a judge, Russell Kono's decisions held a lot of weight. And so he almost never made a quick one.

"He was one of the most patient people," said longtime friend Norman Suzuki. "He worked extremely hard, and he was concerned about the work that he did for people."

Kono, who was elected to the state House in 1955, worked in private practice alongside former Gov. George Ariyoshi into the late 1950s and served as Honolulu's District Court administrative judge for 25 years, died Nov. 27. He was 85.

"Russell was someone that I felt had a real kindness for people," said Suzuki. "I always felt that he had great integrity. That's an overused word but I felt that."

Kono, the older of two brothers and originally of Naalehu on the Big Island, enlisted as a U.S. Army staff sergeant in 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

He was one of 14 nisei assigned to the combat infantry known as Merrill's Marauders, which fought in the China-Burma-India theater. Kono, who served as a Japanese interpreter with the Military Intelligence Service, earned a Bronze Star before being honorably discharged in 1945.

With help from the GI Bill, Kono attended the University of Michigan Law School and returned to the islands to set up practice alongside Ariyoshi, former state Attorney General Bert Kobayashi and Suzuki.

"He put his clients first in his thoughts, and he always thought about doing good for Hawaii," said Kono's son, Alan. "He was a visionary. He wanted to see change."

That attitude may have been what pushed Kono to run for the state House of Representatives in 1955. But after completing his term, Kono -- "a quiet and private man" -- left politics after his opponents made personal attacks on his family, his son said.

During Kono's time at the law firm, he also helped create State Independent Drivers Association of Hawaii Inc., under the instruction of former Gov. John Burns during a time when unaffiliated taxi drivers were having difficulty competing with large taxi companies.

In 1958, Kono became a District Court judge and was later promoted to District Court administrative judge. Alan Kono remembers his father's demeanor in the courtroom as understanding, "never patronizing."

If the accused did not understand legalese, Alan Kono said his father would speak in pidgin.

"People thought him very fair and sort of a people's man," Kono said. "He always brought that to our upbringing ... (that) you shouldn't just let life unfold without being a participant."

Besides his son, Kono is survived by wife Florence; daughters Trisha Tubbs, of Washington state, and Lori Clapp, of Florida; and five grandchildren. Private family services for Kono were held, and his ashes were scattered.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --