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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 12, 2002

Hollywood actor Benjamin Lum dead at 48

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Benjamin W.S. Lum of Glendale, Calif. — a Honolulu-born actor whose performing career was dominated by Los Angeles stage and screen credits — died Jan. 1 in Glendale. He was 48.

Lum was in the local news most recently, however, because of personal tragedy instead of professional triumph: He made a plea at an August parole board hearing to extend the sentence of the man who murdered his mother.

Ellen Lum was the 74-year-old woman who in 1994 was beaten in her lower Makiki home by Samson Kauhi. In September, the board extended the minimum prison term from 15 to 50 years.

Benjamin Lum's happier pursuits were his quests, ultimately successful ones, for acting jobs. He is most closely allied with East-West Players, a Los Angeles acting company that is planning a "celebration of life" in Lum's honor at 11 a.m. Jan. 26 at its David Henry Hwang Theatre.

Other credits include a regular role on the science-fiction series "The Privateers" and appearances on "ER," "NYPD Blue" and "Bette." He also had big-screen roles in "Perfect Game," "Firetrap," "Another 48 Hours" and other films.

He has lived for more than 20 years in California, where he moved when he decided to switch careers from teaching in Hawai'i to acting in Hollywood.

Ken Ordenstein is now a funeral director but had been friends with Lum since both were teachers at the Alternative Learning Center they helped establish at Central Intermediate School.

"He was really good at one-to-one, very patient, very kind and also pretty outspoken," he said. "He was a terrific storyteller. It suited him well in both professions."

Jim Nakamoto, who has directed many Hawai'i stage productions, met Lum when he was a sophomore who set foot in Nakamoto's McKinley High School drama class in 1968. Lum had been writing essays on growing up that he'd planned to perform.

"I remember he sent me his first introduction on how he stepped into the whole drama room and a whole new world opened up," Nakamoto said.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary, with visitation beginning at 9:30 a.m. and burial at 1 p.m. Attire is casual.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to East-West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Survivors include his brothers, Michael and Vincent, and sisters, Patricia Chang and Roberta Fazande.