The HONOLULU 100 – Sam and Mary Cooke to Webley Edwards

Sam (1937- ) and Mary (1936- ) Cooke

The only married couple on our list, Sam and Mary Cooke have turned their love of the ‘aina into organizations dedicated to preserving the civic and Hawaiian culture of Honolulu. Sam was founding chairman of the Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i and is still a trustee at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which was founded by Sam’s great-grandmother, Anna Rice Cooke (see here). Mary is the founding president of Malama O Manoa, a community group created to preserve Manoa Valley, one of Honolulu’s oldest, most distinctive neighborhoods.

The couple’s most recent endeavor is the Manoa Heritage Center, converting their own Tudor-style home, including its extensive art and furniture collection, into a future museum. In 1992, the Cookes purchased the property adjacent to their home, thereby rescuing the only pre-contact agricultural heiau in Manoa, which they are also restoring as part of the future center.

“Eventually this house will be open to the public, but while we’re still living here we hope we’re able to give tours of the garden and heiau,” Mary says.


Jack de Mello (1916-  )

Jack de Mello has been one of Hawai’i’s most prolific and influential composers. After jumpstarting his Hawai’i recording career in 1947 by selling 40,000 copies of a ditty called “Coconut Willie,” de Mello went on to record almost 160 albums, most under his own label, Music of Polynesia.

He also possesses a keen nose for talent, and has worked with Nina Keali’iwahamana, Emma Veary, Marlene Sai, The Brothers Cazimero and the Beamer brothers, among others.

Keali’iwahamana sang for de Mello on his orchestral Music of Hawai’i series, and told HONOLULU in 2004, “He’s such a musical genius. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew the sounds that he needed. He just wrote them down and never heard them until he raised his little pencil to lead these giant orchestras in Los Angeles and in London.”

De Mello is still full of energy; he now lives in Las Vegas, and continues to compose every day.

photo: courtesy Mountain Apple Co.


photo: Jimmy Forrest

Jon de Mello (1947-  )

In the past few decades, Hawai’i’s once-humble music scene has been transformed into a genuine recording industry, with international reach. No one has played a larger role in that process than Jon de Mello.

His Mountain Apple Co., incorporated in 1978, with the Brothers Cazimero as its first act, is today a music recording, distribution, publishing, licensing and talent management juggernaut. Its catalog now includes such legends as Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, as well as the extensive, historic recordings of the Music of Polynesia label.

Longtime radio DJ Harry B. Soria Jr., who went to Kalani High School with de Mello, remembers first hearing about his new venture. “He created this little company, and we all said, oh, how cute. Not realizing that he was going to build it up to be the biggest music management and distribution company in the Islands.”

De Mello is an artist himself, writing original music for television shows and motion pictures; his most-heard composition must surely be the intro music that precedes every Consolidated Theatres’ feature.


Charles William Dickey (1871-1942)

C.W. Dickey, arguably Hawai’i’s most important architect, didn’t invent the double-pitch hipped roof, but he did perfect its application in Hawai’i, using its wide eaves in conjunction with a lanai and an open layout to unite a house’s interior with the outside.

The Dickey roof has become a ubiquitous shorthand for Hawai’i regional architecture, which is somewhat ironic, given that, in 1933, Dickey himself wrote in Paradise of the Pacific, predecessor of HONOLULU Magazine, of “designing homes with no thought of history but with an honest sincere and earnest desire to meet local conditions in a beautiful well balanced and acceptable manner. … This is really the only logical way to proceed, for our conditions are unique.”

Dickey’s best buildings include the Immigration Station, the Alexander & Baldwin building and the now-gone Waikiki Theater, and his aesthetic can be seen just about everywhere you look in the Honolulu cityscape. Architect Glenn Mason says, “There’s no question that Dickey’s works are quite influential. Because we’re so retro these days, a lot of his stuff is being used as an inspiration.”

photo: from the architecture of Charles W. Dickey


photo: Bishop Museum

Benjamin Dillingham (1844-1918)

Benjamin Franklin Dillingham was a risk taker. On his 44th birthday, he took his biggest leap, promising to open O’ahu’s first mass transit system in exactly one year. As promised, on his 45th birthday in 1889, passengers were given half-mile rides on O’ahu Railway & Land Co.’s (OR&L) tracks.

Among his many business endeavors, Dillingham is remembered for OR&L, the railroad that made large-scale sugar and pineapple plantations possible. To generate funds during the railroad’s initial years, Dillingham created Hawai’i’s first planned community, Pearl City, “one of the most delightful spots on the island, made accessible by the building of the O’ahu railroad,” according to an 1892 Paradise of the Pacific article.

OR&L operated for nearly 60 years, focusing heavily on transporting agricultural products from the fertile ‘Ewa area to harbors for export. “In his time, Dillingham was all powerful,” says historian DeSoto Brown. “When you see the level he operated at, it’s remarkable.”


Walter Dillingham (1875-1963)

“[Walter Francis Dillingham’s] legacy is easily visible in the physical world,” says historian DeSoto Brown. “When you look around today you can see things that the Dillinghams worked on, physical changes to the landscape.” When his father, Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, died in 1966, Walter took over O’ahu Railway & Land Co. and started Hawaiian Dredging Co.

As a developer, Dillingham made substantial contributions to Honolulu, including the construction of Ala Moana Center and the Ala Wai Canal. “People in those days were far less likely to see it as paving paradise,” says Brown. “They were likely saying, ‘Aren’t these new buildings wonderful?'”

Before construction, the Ala Moana area had no economic use. “If [the shopping center] hadn’t been built, there would be none of those high-rises being built today,” says Brown. “Just that one example shows how powerful that family really was.”

photo: Bishop Museum


photo: courtesy of First Hawaiian Bank

Walter Dods (1941-  )

When First Hawaiian Bank chairman and CEO John Bellinger died suddenly in 1989, Walter Dods took the helm of what was then the second-largest bank in Hawai’i. The ‘Aina Haina-born Dods soon proved himself as the rightful successor.

During his 15-year tenure heading the bank, Dods negotiated a series of mergers, including the biggest corporate acquisition in Hawai’i history, transforming the bank into the largest financial institution in the Islands. He also built the 430-foot First Hawaiian Center on Bishop Street, the tallest building in the state.

But Dods’ contributions go beyond the boardroom, reaching into Honolulu’s exclusive political and community circles. He advised the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and former Gov. George Ariyoshi. He’s also raised millions of dollars for local charities, including Aloha United Way.

“I learned early on, you get your income from the community, but you have to give back,” Dods says. “You need to be a broader person if you want to be a good executive.”


James D. Dole (1877-1958)

Many kama’aina remember summers working at the pineapple cannery–or, at least, the iconic pineapple water tower that once loomed over Honolulu. James Dole made Honolulu into a pineapple town, founding Hawaiian Pineapple in 1901 on a small Wahiawa plantation.

Soon after, Dole put efforts into mass production. In 1907, he opened his ‘Iwilei cannery. Realizing the pineapple industry’s potential, he refined the Ginaca machine, which sliced off the tops and skin of the prickly fruit, speeding up canning time.

Dole’s business savvy turned pineapple into Hawai’i’s second-largest industry, behind sugar. In 1930, Hawaiian Pineapple produced 90 percent of the world’s pineapple.

To keep up with demand, Dole purchased the island of Lana’i in 1922, converting it into the world’s largest pineapple plantation. “He built the whole infrastructure of the Island,” says Bishop Museum historian DeSoto Brown. “He employed thousands of people, promoted Dole Cannery as the largest cannery in the world and Hawai’i as the premier producer of pineapple.”

Today, Dole is one of the most widely recognized brand-names in the United States.

photo: Castle & Cooke


photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Rev. Claude DuTeil (1920-1997)

The letters IHS are the Greek abbreviation for “Jesus,” but, for the past 27 years, they have spelled relief to downtown Honolulu’s homeless and low-income population. The Rev. Claude DuTeil started the Institute for Human Services on his 58th birthday, taking to the streets to hand out peanut butter sandwiches and coffee to the hungry, says Lynn Maunakea, IHS’s current director.

According to Maunakea, DuTeil’s own struggles with alcoholism and bi-polar disorder helped him relate to the guests. “He believed in helping people, but he also expected them to meet him halfway–at least.” The organization has flourished based on his tough-love philosophy. Although it is a faith-based organization, the food, shelter and clothing provided to almost 2,000 people each year come with no strings attached. “The sermon is in the soup,” DuTeil used to say.


Webley Edwards (1902-1977)

As producer and host of Hawai’i Calls, the most popular Hawaiian music radio program ever, Webley Edwards brought the music and atmosphere of the Islands to millions all over the world. The show began in 1935, before television, but Edwards didn’t need pictures to work his magic. He would broadcast the sound of the waves breaking on the beach in Waikiki, and then announce the water temperature–a balmy 72 degrees!–and envious listeners could imagine their own tantalizing paradise.

“It’s amazing how many people came out here directly because of the radio show,” says Don McDiarmid Jr., whose Hula Records now owns Hawai’i Calls. “There’s a bunch of people living here now, who, if you asked them how they got here, would talk about listening to Hawai’i Calls.”

Edwards is also remembered for his news reporting during World War II. He was one of the first on the air after the attack on Pearl Harbor, exclaiming, “This is the real McCoy!” In the ’50s, Edwards would leverage his radio popularity to win election to the territorial Legislature.