Karleen C. Chinen

There are many days when I feel more like a traffic cop (scheduling and juggling feature stories) than a journalist. With an editorial “staff” of two — and that’s including myself — it’s hard not to feel like that. Between planning, scheduling, copy editing and other “stuff,” there’s just no time to get out and interview people the way I once did — I now have to rely on contributing writers for most of that.

While I often long for those good ’ol days, reading about the recent passing of former Hawai‘i County Mayor and retired Big Island Circuit Judge Shunichi Kimura made me realize how I was blessed to have had the opportunity to interview people whom I considered the “giants” in our community. I don’t mean “giants” in the superstar sense of the word, but rather because of the humanity that was part of their being. Judge Kimura was one of those people.

I arranged to interview him for the Herald’s 1988 Big Island issue. As was often the case, I was told that I could have an hour at the end of his work day. Judge Kimura and I talked for almost three hours. He was that deep a person. He was humble to the core. I distinctly remember that we were the last ones to leave the State Building in Hilo — it was already dark outside when I left his chambers.

So, while I was sad to learn of his passing on May 20 in California, where he and his wife Grace had settled after he retired, I counted my blessings for having had that time to talk with him and to listen to his thoughts. He was truly a special person. I remember sending him a thank you letter after his story was published. He wrote back to me in beautiful cursive on lined paper from his goldenrod legal tablet.

I’d like to use this Dialogue to share with you some of the gems he shared with me.

• On school groups visiting his courtroom: “Our one standing rule is that we say, ‘Yes.’ So it’s not a matter of whether I can see them or not; it’s just when do they want to come?”

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