The HONOLULU 100 – Frank Leonard Rego Sr. to Matsuo

Frank Leonard Rego Sr. (1915-1980)

To fry is human; to add sugar, divine. “Every single country in the world has a version of the malassada. In France, we have a slightly different recipe,” says James Beard Award-winner Chef Mavro. Mavro even offers a version of malassada on his restaurant’s menu, because, “It fits into the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine style of cooking.”

Malassadas wouldn’t have been connected to our Island culture if it hadn’t been for Frank Leonard Rego Sr., who founded his bakery, Leonard’s, in 1952, and largely introduced Honolulu to this puffed treat. 

“Leonard never went to college, but was a real go-getter,” recalls Charlotte Cox, Rego’s niece. “And he used to deliver a huge pink box of malassadas almost every day to my dad’s [his brother’s] company.”

Malassadas are now ubiquitous in Hawai’i, but they are an ethereal pleasure. “The problem is they aren’t easily transported,” points out Mavro. “They aren’t as nice if they aren’t totally fresh.”


Rap Reiplinger (1950-1984)

More than any other comedian, James Kawika “Rap” Reiplinger has burrowed his way into the consciousness of Hawaii residents. Maybe it’s because he imbued his characters and skits with a sharp truth. Fans recognize, if not themselves, at least an uncle, a mother or a crazy calabash cousin in Auntie Marialani, Willie Maunawili, Merdie Murdock.

Reiplinger first honed his chops with the comedy group Booga Booga, alongside James Grant Benton and Ed Ka’ahea, before breaking out on his own with the 1978 album Poi Dog–which became an instant sensation. His comedy permeated just about every aspect of Hawaii’s popular culture in the ’70s, and catchphrases like “I like da crackah” live on to this day.

His work also continues to influence Hawaii comedians. Radio personality Gregg Hammer cites Reiplinger as a huge inspiration. “To think that so many voices, and so many ideas, can come out of one guy’s head,” Hammer says. “He paved the way for everyone who came afterwards. If it wasn’t for Rap, I don’t think comedy would be where it’s at in Hawaii.”

photo: KGMB


photo: Filipino Fiesta souvenir book

Faustino Respicio (1905-2002)

In the late 1930s, thousands of homesick Filipino plantation workers tuned into Faustino Respicio’s Filipino Fiesta radio show. Most of them had no family in the Islands, and the program became their little slice of home.

During World War II, Respicio chaired the Filipino War Bond Drive, urging his radio listeners to contribute. His efforts helped raise more than $2 million in war bonds–remarkable, considering that plantation workers then earned 99 cents a day.

In 1953, Respicio took Filipino Fiesta to local television, airing 2,000 episodes over the next 33 years–the longest running locally produced TV show in the Islands. The show, a mix of Ilokano and English, entertained viewers with performances by both local and visiting talents. At the same time, it promoted Filipino culture in the Islands.

“He was a kind, hard-working man, who really wanted to entertain the Filipino plantation workers and propagate the Filipino culture,” says Ernesto Bautista, who now hosts Filipino Fiesta on KNDI Radio 1270AM. “That’s why it’s so important for me to continue on with the show.”


William S. Richardson (1919-  )

“The best senses of aloha are personified in chief justice Richardson,” says Aviam Soifer, dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law. “It’s hard to keep in mind, at the same time, that this remarkable man–in terms of his generosity and empathy–is someone who is also so hard-headed.” Which is one way to get a law school named after you–forging a uniquely Hawaii legal philosophy.

During his 16 years as chief justice of the Hawai’i Supreme Court, Richardson made it clear that “he felt there was no particular reason to follow Anglo-American common law when there was perfectly good Hawaiian law to follow,” says Soifer. Richardson applied this way of thinking when he fought for public access to Hawaii’s beaches. “I can’t see my children and yours not being able to use the beaches,” Richardson told  HONOLULU Magazine in a 1982 interview. “No one has had a greater impact on the legal community in Hawaii,” says Soifer. Richardson, retired, still sits in on classes.

photo: UH School of Law


photo: Jimmy Forrest

Randall Roth (1948- )

Randall Roth first gained real public prominence in 1992 with Price of Paradise, a breakout collection of essays examining a wide range of civic issues in Hawaii that spawned a sequel, a radio show and a series of newspaper columns.

“I’m a real big believer in the idea that the more people talk about and debate issues, the better that community is going to deal with them,” Roth says of the series. “Lively, informed dialogue is essential to the process of getting good decisions made.”

“Lively” is one way to describe the public reaction to the Aug. 9, 1997, “Broken Trust” editorial, which Roth co-authored with Samuel King, Gladys Brandt, Walter Heen and Monsignor Charles Kekumano. The critical essay, which took Bishop Estate trustees to task for mismanagement and questioned their selection process, prompted a state investigation that eventually led to the ouster of the entire board, and a reorganization of the estate’s management.

Roth acted as Gov. Linda Lingle’s senior policy adviser for a time, but has since returned to his law professorship at UH Manoa.


Arthur Rutledge (1907-1997)

One of the giants in Hawaii’s labor history, Art Rutledge built a union empire in the Islands, made up of thousands of hotel workers, bus drivers, hospital employees and others. The controversial union leader founded the Hawaii Teamsters union and headed the state’s largest hotel union, Local 5, for nearly 40 years.

By the time he died in 1997, Rutledge had led an estimated 200 strikes and been the subject of numerous allegations and investigations.  

“The guy’s been a maverick,” ILWU head Tommy Trask told HONOLULU Magazine in 1983, “but he’s gotten some great contracts for his people. He’s loved by some, hated by others and respected by all.”

During World War II, Rutledge was one of a few who defended the rights of Japanese Americans in the Islands. But unlike ILWU leaders, Rutledge was a “business unionist,” who avoided larger social issues, focusing instead on his members’ immediate contracts. In the early ’50s, one his most successful hotel strikes resulted in Hawaii’s first-ever employer-paid health plan.   

He also created the now-embattled Unity House in 1951, a nonprofit intended to benefit members of the Local 5 and Teamsters.

photo: courtesy of Unity House


photo: from Nolle Smith: Cowboy, Engineer, Statesman

Nolle Smith (1889-1982)

In a place like Honolulu, where being a “mixed-plate” of ethnicities is standard, Nolle Smith fit right in. The half-white and half-black-and-American-Indian cowboy from Cheyenne, Wyo. came to Honolulu in the early 1900s. He worked as an engineer, served on several legislative committees and owned Smith’s Construction Co.

Sen. Hiram Fong, a close friend of Smith’s, wrote in a 1971 biography, “His most notable feat was his election and re-election to the territorial House of Representatives.”

Once elected in 1929, Smith dedicated much of his time to education reform. He believed that the future of Hawaii depended on its children, says University of Hawaii assistant professor Kathryn Takara.

Smith’s legislative career spanned a time in Honolulu’s history when whites dominated most of Honolulu’s influential positions. Furthermore, he was elected in a district with no more than 10 black constituents, but “Nolle wanted to offer himself as further proof that race had no bearing on a man’s ability,” says Takara.


Maurice Sullivan (1908-1998)

Some knew Maurice Sullivan as the founder of Foodland, or the man who brought Hawaii its first McDonald’s, or as a generous philanthropist. But his friends and family just knew him as “Sully.”

Throughout his career, Sullivan opened 175 retail stores in Hawaii, expanded McDonald’s to his native Ireland and played an active role in countless charitable organizations–all the while, never leaving the office later than 5:30 each night. “He really believed that people should spend time with their families,” says his daughter, Jenai Wall.

Sully was remembered for the way he treated the people who worked for him, says Sheryl Toda, Foodland’s director of corporate communications. He was a familiar sight at several Foodland locations, sometimes bringing along his grandkids. “He liked to chat with the customers and visit his employees.”

photo: courtesy of Foodland


photo: courtesy of Jan Sunn-Carreira

Rell Sunn (1950-1998)

At a time when professional surfing was considered the territory of men, Makaha’s own Rell Sunn broke new ground. She co-founded the Women’s International Surfing Association in 1975–the first women’s pro circuit. An accomplished free-diver and canoe paddler, Sunn also became the first woman lifeguard in the city and county of Honolulu in the late ’70s. But it was her dedication to her hometown that earned her the nickname “Queen of Makaha.” Wanting to pass on her love of surfing to the children in her community, she founded the annual Menehune Surf Meet, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. When Sunn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, she shared her story with women throughout the Leeward Coast, encouraging them to care for their own health.

Even months before Sunn, 47, died in 1998, she could still be found most mornings riding the waves near her home. “Surfing truly helped her through the roughest of times, always,” her daughter, Jan Sunn-Carreira, says. “Her sanctuary was the ocean. Surfing was like breathing to her.”


photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin


Matsuo “Matsy” Takabuki (1923- )

“He’s one of the designers of modern Hawaii,” says Dennis Ogawa, a professor of American studies at UH and a co-author of Takabuki’s 1998 book, An Unlikely Revolutionary. Takabuki was active in the Democratic Party and, for 16 years, served on Honolulu’s Board of Supervisors (now called the city council). An attorney, he worked with Chinn Ho on some of the largest financial and real estate deals in the Islands.

Yet it’s his 21 years as Bishop Estate Trustee that stand out. “He takes the greatest pride in knowing he contributed to building a foundation which will provide opportunities to the children of Hawaiian ancestry for many years to come,” says his daughter, Anne Takabuki. His bold investment strategies led the Bishop Estate into a partnership with Goldman Sachs that has greatly enriched the educational endowment fund.

 “When he negotiated a transaction, he was always fair,” recalls Eric Martinson, who worked closely with him at the Bishop Estate. “It was always, ‘Let’s do this so everybody wins.'”