R.I.P. Herb Matayoshi

I was sorry to hear of the death of Herbert Matayoshi, a gentleman politician who served as Big Island mayor from 1974 to 1984 after earning his stripes as a leader on the County Council.

Matayoshi, 82, provided Hawai‘i County steady guidance through a period of major political transition, leading with an easy manner and an eye for detail.

While he preferred a low-key approach, he could display a flair for the dramatic.

When the council decided not to reconfirm his respected planning director Raymond Suefuji and corporation counsel Clifford Lum for no apparent reason other than to flex muscle, Matayoshi whipped up community outrage and made the council sit through hours of testimony in favor of his nominees that lasted long into the night.

Then, knowing that the votes wouldn’t change, he threw it in the face of council members by appearing as the last witness and withdrawing the nominations, denying them the satisfaction of the last word.

He gave the Police Commission a public dressing down after the panel called an illegal secret meeting to fire popular Chief Ernest Fergerstrom as he recovered from a stroke.

With his diverse business interests, even after retiring from politics Matayoshi remained a force in the community along with his wife Mary, an educator and volunteer who has been a major figure in her own right.

The couple passed on their passion for public service to their four children, who include state Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

Visitation will be at 4 p.m. July 26 at Honolulu’s Borthwick Mortuary, followed by a memorial service at 6 p.m. An observance in Hilo will be held Aug. 15 at Church of the Holy Cross with visitation at 2:30 p.m. and a celebration of life at 4 p.m.

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3 Comments on “R.I.P. Herb Matayoshi”

  1. Cute Lunatic Says:

    Rest in peace, Mr. Mayor.

  2. Hugh Clark Says:

    I covered Mayor Herb, as did David. He was sincere, made good cabinet and staff choices and ran a pretty straight government.

    Though we did not always agree, his door was always open and he was accessible before openness rules were well formulated.

    His lasting legacy in my view is the search and rescue aspect of the fire department that remains a superior service on a far-flung island.

    He pioneered the EMS program as well, possibly in respect to the medical background he had from his pioneer doctor dad — the legendary Zenko Matayoshi –and his older brother, James, a long-time physician now retired.

  3. David Shapiro Says:

    Hey Hugh. You bring back an old memory of a flight the mayor arranged for us in the search and rescue helicopter to take some aerial photos. Our guide turned out to be a fireman you had fingered in a story as the instigator of a brawl with police officers. I was most nervous as the only object between you, him and the copter door.

    You’re right about his foresight and perseverance in getting search and rescue going.

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