Heftel remembered for many strengths


POSTED: Monday, March 29, 2010

More than 150 people turned out at the Hawaii Theatre yesterday for a memorial for congressman, entrepreneur, “;showman extraordinaire,”; visionary and education advocate Cecil “;Cec”; Heftel.

Attendees, including family members, friends from the broadcast industry and local politicians, remembered Heftel for his courage, vision, generosity, intelligence and impact on their lives and careers.

Heftel, 85, died of natural causes Feb. 4.

He came to Honolulu in 1964 after buying bottom-ranking KGMB AM/FM radio and KGMB TV, the lowest-rated CBS affiliate, and built them up into two of the country's top 30 stations.

He hired legendary radio deejay Hal “;Aku”; Lewis and created the beloved “;Checkers and Pogo”; show.

“;He was a fellow who I think epitomized the American pioneer spirit, willing to take risks even though I can tell odds may be against him,”; said U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. “;That took guts.”;

;[Preview]  Friends remember Cec Heftel

Friends and coworkers of Cec Heftel put the former Congressman and broadcast pioneer to rest.


Watch ]





Inouye said after Heftel was elected to the House in 1976, he became a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

“;Everyone looked at him in great awe,”; he said, adding that Heftel had a keen mind that could discern the pertinent issues at hand. “;He added zest to our lives. There was never a dull moment with Cec Heftel around the corner.”;

Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie recalled how after he won the special election to replace Heftel in the House in 1986, Heftel gave him his apartment in Washington.

“;It taught me a very valuable lesson,”; Abercrombie said, “;about his openness, his willingness to consider what was good for others. ... He tried to utilize and emphasize all that he had been given in the service of others.”;

Jeff Watanabe, Heftel's attorney, said in a memorial video that it was not about money for Heftel, but about making a meaningful difference to others, whether it was through the first satellite broadcast for Hawaii or service in public life.

Timothy Haake, a Washington, D.C., attorney who flew to Honolulu for the memorial, said Heftel gave him the job as tax counsel for a House committee that paved the way for his career as a lawyer 30 years ago.

“;He touched so many people, gave you an opportunity to prove yourself, nurtured you,”; Haake said.

“;(My family's) lives are fuller because I had the good fortune to cross paths with him,”; he told the audience.

He described Heftel as a visionary in legislation. “;Cec was a tireless generator of great ideas and initiatives,”; he said. “;He saw opportunities that others didn't see.”;

A video showed Heftel in an electric vehicle at the time he was pushing for renewable energy in Congress. He also pushed for universal health care coverage using Hawaii's law as a model for the nation in 1980, Haake said.

Former KGMB 590 deejay George “;Granny Goose”; Groves, who recalled Heftel's colorful personality, said working for him was probably the “;scariest thing and yet the most enlightening thing.”;

He still wears the watch Heftel gave to him in 1975 with an inscription that says, “;KGMB built on 10 years of Granny. Thanks, Cec.”;

“;My gratitude,”; Groves said, “;to Cec for seeing in me what I never (knew I) had.”;

Among those attending were former U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Pat Saiki and Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, who was a freshman congressman with Heftel, sent a letter honoring him, and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka provided a written statement.