Crowds pour into Hawaii Theatre to remember Cec Heftel - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Crowds pour into Hawaii Theatre to remember Cec Heftel

Linda Coble Linda Coble
Leslie Wilcox Leslie Wilcox
Hawaii U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye Hawaii U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye
Rebecca Heftel Rebecca Heftel

By Keahi Tucker - bio | email

DOWNTOWN HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was a tribute to a trailblazer. A distinguished crowd turned out in downtown Honolulu Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of the late congressman and broadcaster Cec Heftel.

The Governor ordered flags to be flown at half-staff around the state - an honor for the public servant who represented Hawaii for five terms in the U.S. House.

The memorial attracted plenty of familiar faces.

Nearly two months after Heftel died peacefully at the age of 85, the memorial at the Hawaii Theatre was a who's who of local media and politics.

Friends family and colleagues all shared stories about the ambitious man who was one of the good things about Hawaii.

That old familiar theme song, the glory days of J. Akuhead Pupule, Checkers and Pogo, and newsman Bob Sevey, all thrived under the regime of Cec Heftel, who bought KGMB in 1964.


"Under his regime, I was under his thumb but you know what he never stuck his thumb into any of the work we did in the newsroom. He was giving us the opportunity to shine. He invested, watched us grow, never meddled," said former KGMB anchor Linda Coble.

"He wasn't patient with us, he was very tolerant of his employees and loyal, and believe it or not he was generous to a fault," said 'Granny Goose' TV host, George Groves.

"He saw far ahead and he believed in up up up for quality. You know, people talk about risk taking leadership and that's what he was doing," said former KGMB reporter Leslie Wilcox.


And after building a broadcasting powerhouse, Heftel was off to Washington selling his beloved TV station in 1977 to become a congressman on the fast track.

"Now a freshman member just doesn't get on the Ways and Means Committee right off the bat but he did it because right away the fellows in the House sensed that this guy had talent, which he had," said Hawaii U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye.


"He came in with a lot of ideas, a lot of challenges, a lot of questions. He was a little unsettling to a lot of the powers that be in Washington. He asked why we didn't do things a certain way and say 'let's change it'," said former Congressman Ed Case.


In 1986, with his eye on the Governor's office, Heftel gave up his House seat to the new guy, Neil Abercrombie.

"His kindness and courtesy to my wife and myself is something we'll never forget. He gave us his apartment in Washington, he gave me friendship and advice and counsel all my life," said former Congressman, Abercrombie.


Heftel lost the Governor's race and moved to the mainland.

But soon there was more work to be done back in Hawaii.

"Later in life, at the age of 80-years-old, he still wanted to serve. I remember sitting down with him and saying, 'Cec, why don't you take it easy?'. He said 'No, the educational system needs some improvement and I want to serve,'. So he ran for the Board of Education," said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.


Heftel's resume was long.

His influence on Hawaii was widespread.

Sunday's outpouring of aloha left his wife, Rebecca, overcome with pride.


"We're thrilled and Mr. Heftel would be thrilled and it does make my heart beat faster. It really does. I think it's amazing," said Heftel's widow.


Although Mr. Heftel died in San Diego, he's buried here in the state he called home - at Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery in Kaneohe, right next to his mom.


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