Editor's Page: Missing Vince

It’s odd when a story on home maintenance makes you mourn.

Photo: Courtesy of Wanette Goto

When I read Ronna Bolante’s story for this issue—on how to maintain your home to preserve its value—all I could think of is: I miss Vince.

Vince Goto died recently, at age 59.

He was, as my wife puts it, her second husband. “I wasn’t alone,” she said. “At the funeral I sat with a whole row of women, and, for every one of them, he was their second husband, too.”

Vince was my wife’s handyman. I won’t really say he was mine. He entered our lives when Barb despaired of my abilities to do home maintenance. In fact, if I’d get out my limited supply of tools to embark on a project, she’d get the Band-Aids and set them down next to the toolbox. Don’t even ask what happened when I tried to change the washers in the shower.

Fortunately, Barb ran out of patience before I ran out of Band-Aids. She called Vince, whom she’d met when they both worked at GTE Hawaiian Tel. Her list of things that needed to be fixed became The Vince List. Then retired and working part-time for Aloha Airlines, Vince would arrive and take the situation in hand.

He could apparently fix anything. No matter how large. (Why was there a leak in the kitchen? Who knew the water line for the icemaker ran across the ceiling?) Or how small. (How on earth do you get that drawer to actually slide back and forth on its rails?)

He was better at fixing things than the so-called professionals. Once the plumbers came twice, billed us for two failed repairs and then insisted they’d have to tear out the wall to stop the leak in the shower. Vince fixed it in an hour.

Whenever you could finally force Vince to bill you, you’d wince because the total was so ridiculously low.

A small, quiet, wiry guy, Vince never said much, but he was always there. Once our roof started leaking. In no time, Vince was on our steeply pitched roof, in a torrential downpour, with some kind of caulking gun. The leak stopped. He never failed at anything, except perhaps getting our gates to open and close right, but that may be beyond mortal capabilities.

It wasn’t just his abilities that made Vince remarkable. He was, in that Island way, endlessly considerate and helpful, without making a fuss about it. He had a key to our house, of course. You could trust him implicitly. One day he let himself in to finish a repair, startling my daughter, who’d stayed home from school, feeling poorly. Since she was sick and Vince felt sorry for her, he immediately volunteered to go get her lunch from McDonalds.

Barb also introduced Vince to her mother. Vince would not only do the repairs to Grandma Etsuko’s apartment, but, during the bus strike, would drive her to the doctor or wherever else she needed to go.

We knew Vince didn’t feel well, had had an operation. But since he was uncomplaining, we didn’t quite realize he was dying of cancer. He could fix everything else, we assumed he could fix that as well.

Vince Goto leaves a wife, Wanette; four children, the youngest 13; and perhaps hundreds of people who miss him.

It’s an incredible legacy. We should all do so well with our lives.