Maui honors

A service celebrates Goro Hokama's
work in politics and labor

WAILUKU » Valley Isle residents said goodbye to a man who held elective office longer than anyone in Maui County in the last half century.

Goro Hokama, who served 41 years on the Maui County Council, was honored at Kahului Union Church yesterday.

Goro Hokama, who started his political career before statehood and served 41 years on the Maui County Council, including 16 years as Council chairman, died on May 20. He was 75.

"Goro was a champion of Hawaii's working men and women," said U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, during a eulogy honoring Hokama at Kahului Union Church yesterday.

Hokama helped to lead a major pineapple strike on Lanai in 1951 that resulted in higher wages and better working conditions for laborers, friends recalled.

Except for service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he continued to work at Dole Foods' pineapple operations, for 45 years, retiring in 1991.

Hokama was elected to the Maui Board of Supervisors in 1954 and was a part of the Democratic Party electoral revolution that wrested legislative control from Republicans in Hawaii.

Former Maui Mayor Elmer Cravalho, a fellow Democrat, said Hokama supported many projects that enabled the Valley Isle to prosper, including a joint venture to bring water from Wailuku to south Maui.

"That's what made Maui what it is," Cravalho said. "That's a tremendous legacy that Council Chairman Hokama participated in and has left us."

Cravalho credited Hokama with being instrumental in gathering support from field workers on Lanai and Molokai that helped Cravalho win the mayor's seat by 139 votes.

Former County Managing Director Howard Nakamura said Hokama was a fiscal conservative, treating the county's money like his family's money, and kept the county in good financial shape under his leadership.

Hokama also supported the development of hotels on his home island of Lanai to provide employment for residents, as Dole began shutting down pineapple operations.

Ron McOmber, head of Lanaians for Sensible Growth, said Hokama did so many things for residents and "never made a big deal out of it."

After losing his bid for Maui mayor against then incumbent Republican Linda Lingle in 1994, Hokama continued to live on Lanai in a modest house with his wife, Kiwae.

"He's probably the most honest politician I've ever seen," McOmber said. "He didn't do stuff for Goro. He did stuff for the community."

U.S. Rep. Ed Case told the gathering that "he really set the standard for broad and deep community service."

William Kennison, the Maui division director for Local 142 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said whenever Hokama saw him, he would take him aside and give him advice.

In 2001, the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink dedicated the Lanai City Post Office as the Goro Hokama Post Office Building.

He also is survived by his son Councilman Riki Hokama, daughter Joy Helle, brothers Eisuke and Eiso, and two grandsons.


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