Elevator Operator Wins Hearts on Rides - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Elevator Operator Wins Hearts on Rides

Javier Fombidilla inside his elevator at the Blaisdell Building downtown. Javier Fombidilla inside his elevator at the Blaisdell Building downtown.
The American flag that flies in Javier's elevator. The American flag that flies in Javier's elevator.

Honolulu (KHNL) - In this fast paced world of technology, we found something that brings you back to yester-year: the oldest passenger-carrying elevator in Hawaii, which is also the last operator-assisted elevator in the state.

68 year old Javier Fombidilla is the man who drives it.

"Nobody ask me what floor they want. I know everybody's floor," Fombidilla says in English laced with a thick Cuban accent. He considers all the regulars like a second family, and the elevator like his second home.

Passenger Oskana Klyuchinchnko says, "He's just so nice and the sweetest person I've ever met in my life. He's a superhero. He's the best."

Another man dashes out of the elevator, saying, "He's the last driver. When he dies, the elevator shuts down."

Javier's life is a series of ups and downs. "One day I checked how many times I go up and down. About 200 times. This is so nice, you know. All day up and down."

He could have gone to LA and back by now.

Javier says his real job, though, is to spread happiness. "Like a medicine, eh? When you see people around you happy, I think you feel happy. When you see people grouchy it makes you feel sad or down."

He says he saw enough suffering in his native Cuba. "Life is tough there. So I came in '67."

So he hangs Old Glory in his car. "When you don't have freedom, you understand what freedom is. This is the best place anybody can live. You have opportunity, you have freedom."

People rushing in and out might not notice this faded old flag, but Javier never forgets.

"The Cuban flag has the same colors but it's the opposite. It's oppression. This is freedom."

The Blasidell Building and its elevator were built in 1911. You can find Javier there, smiling, of course, five days a week.

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