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Danny Kaopuiki's

Kama`aina Profile

May 2006

"HE HAWAII AU"......

These are words that many of us speak with great emotion and even greater pride!  Most of us know from the moment of our birth that we are "He Hawaii Au" because we know who our parents and our relatives are and thus know from whence we came!  But what if we might have suspected but never found out until much later in our lives that the blood of Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) flows within us and we are indeed "He Hawaii Au"? Would our emotion and pride perhaps be greater?

Meet Frederick P.S. Whang, a Pearl City, Oahu guy who graduated from Waipahu High School in 1962.  Now a prominent attorney with Law Offices in Seattle and Tacoma, Frederick Whang was raised by a single Mom who is a born-in-Hawaii Korean.  Fred grew up in a Korean family environment but always felt that there was something buried deep in his `uhane (soul) that he could not grasp nor understand. It was not until 1992, when he was in his forties that Fred discovered that his Dad was a "hapa" (half Korean-half Native Hawaiian ethnicity) from the island of Maui! It was then that Fred realized that what had laid dormant in him for so many years was a deep feeling of aloha (love) for the culture and land of Hawaii!  Fred never had the opportunity to meet his Dad but from 1992 onwards, he has been "He Hawaii Au" in every possible way! He won't take credit for it but Fred had a key role in the creation of the Lokahi Ohana Hawaiian Club, (one of the oldest and most successful Hawaiian associations in the State of Washington)  by providing legal guidance to two of the original founders, Ahoi Simeona and Sandra Alonzo! In the years since, Fred has been the guy many Hawaiians go to when they need legal advice or assistance. Frederick Whang is a refreshing contradiction to what many of us envision attorneys are like (money hungry sharks is one common perception).  Fred is a down to earth, very warm and likeable guy whose law firm focuses on helping low/middle income minority people who have immigration, financial or other legal problems!  Earning big dollars was never his aim...helping others was and is what drives him!

Fred Whang (center) and some of the Waipahu School Gang of Eight and a Half

Another thing that makes him so special is his humility! When I first approached him about doing a Profile on him, he asked if I would instead Profile he and eight of Waipahu HS '62 classmates because he thought a story about all of them was more interesting than one about him. The "Waipahu High School  Gang of Eight and a Half" (my name for them) live in this area and they are a fascinating group. It is amazing that eight classmates from a kua`aina kula iki (small school way out in the country) independently all chose to live in this area.  Rokie Bonifacio Tarbutton, a Filipino gal from Waipahu, known for her graceful ballroom dancing now lives in Tacoma.... Frank Benabese is a Waipahu Filipino who has such a big, booming voice that he has been nicknamed "the bullhorn"; at one of their Waipahu HS reunions in Las Vegas, they used Frank instead of a loudspeaker system to make announcements...... Fred Higaki is of Hawaii Japanese descent; he was the one voted the "most likely to succeed" in the class of '62; he is a retired US Air Force Colonel who is now a NW Airlines 747 pilot; he resides in Gig Harbor... Benn Ventura is also retired from the US Air Force; Benn is the "Bionic man" because he has done so well after undergoing quintuple heart bypass surgery; Benn loves living in Washington State and has become quite an expert mushroom hunter... Jean Giles is the haole element in the "Gang of Nine"; she was a military dependent who went to Waipahu HS because her Dad was stationed at Barber's Point NAS; Jean lives in Olympia. Jennie Topas Rutherford is a tall Filipina who lives in Marysville; she loves golf and is a "snowbird" (out of here when the weather gets too nasty).... Doris Higuchi Seward is the earliest retiree in the gang, retiring from the Federal Government in 1995; she lives in the Lacey area... Mary Nakayama Chambers is the "flying grandma" of the group; her residence is technically in Hawaii but she spends most of the year alternating visits to her daughters and grandchildren in Oregon and Maple Valley, WA so she is considered the "half" part of the Gang.....last but not least is our Profile guest Frederick Whang, truly a self made success!  Fred enlisted in the US Air Force after high school, spending 10 years as an enlisted man and doing so well that they sent him to college where he graduated from Florida State University.  Following that graduation, Fred spent another 11 years in the Air Force before retiring as a Captain.  Fred spent most of the last few years of his Air Force career at McChord AFB in Tacoma where he spent virtually every night for over four years taking night classes at Puget Sound University to earn his law degree.

Fred is multi-lingual (not counting, he laughingly says, his Waipahu Pidgin English). He can speak a lot of Korean (learned at Yale University ) and Vietnamese (learned in the Air Force) and a little Chinese/some Spanish (from his clients).  Fred met his wife Ki Hyen during a tour in Korea ; they have two sons Chris and David and a granddaughter Lauren!  Fred says his house in Tacoma has been dubbed "Little Oahu" because it really is a gathering place for many in the Hawaiian community here.  Since 1992, Fred has made it a point to learn as much as he can about his Hawaiian heritage and culture. Of his boyhood days, Fred remembers many summers spent with relatives in the Kalihi-uka area. He recalls especially the summer when he was 12 years old and he and his cousins hiked up into the hills above Kalihi-uka (below the Kamehameha Schools campus) where they started a fire to cook something to eat; the fire got out of control and a tree started to burn and Fred and his cousins ran down the hill screaming "Kamehameha Schools is gonna burn down and they're gonna blame us".  At that point, Fred felt sure that future Hawaiians wouldn't get educated because he burned Kamehameha down. Fortunately for all of us, only one tree got a little burned before the fire was put out and Kamehameha is still there, high above Kalihi-uka....also fortunately for us, the young boy who started that fire would one day, many years later, find out that he was "He Hawaii Au" (Hawaiian). From that day hence, Frederick Whang has made it his mission in life to spread the highest of all Hawaiian virtues: helping those who need help the most! 

Frederick Whang is a tremendous role model for all of us to emulate.  Fred's advice:  "Keep the Faith...be Hawaiian always and in every way"!   Mahalo Frederick Whang....you da Man!

Until we meet again, be kind to each other....me ke Aloha pumehana.........Danny


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