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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 15, 2002

Advertiser reporter Hugh Clark retiring

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

Hugh Clark, The Honolulu Advertiser's veteran Hawai'i Island bureau chief, will retire today after 31 years with the newspaper and will be replaced by Kevin Dayton, The Advertiser's Capitol Bureau Chief.

For many Big Island residents and folks from across the state, it will be difficult to imagine Hawai'i Island sports, courts or politics without coverage by Clark. He is an informed source and a kind of institutional memory for more than three decades of life in Hilo and surrounding districts.

Clark, 62, trained himself to remember arcane details of news stories and personalities, and what he couldn't remember was contained in a remarkable filing system that half-filled his second-floor walkup office in the century-old Hilo Drug Building overlooking Hilo Bay.

He is a journalist of the old school, and held out against computer technology for as long as he could, comfortable in the days when bureau reporters pounded on clattering teletype machines, a telephone cradled on one shoulder and a pencil behind the other ear.

He developed his own style in a small community where you knew most everyone. One old friend, former Big Island Mayor Shunichi Kimura remembers that Clark handled issues professionally.

"We had a formal relationship as reporter and mayor, but we were friends, too," said Kimura, who now lives in California. "Our friendship never interfered with his reporting. He wrote it the way he saw it, but he always gave you an opportunity to respond. I always had a great deal of comfort with Hugh."

Clark came to the Big Island in 1966 with a degree from Humboldt State College and after a short career at small papers in Idaho, California, Texas and Nevada. He spent five years with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald before joining The Advertiser in 1971. He helped found the Big Island Press Club, and is a longtime volunteer and official with the American Lung Association of Hawai'i.

A sports fanatic, Clark reveled in covering the active sporting community on the Big Island, but he soon found the island was a multiple threat. He found he had to juggle covering volleyball games with murder trials, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami and some of the most colorful politics in the state. He covered so much of the spectrum of life on the Big Island that colleagues sometimes referred to him as "Vacuum-Cleaner Clark."

Old-timers can remember him casually heading off across vast Big Island distances in a car so derelict that most folks wouldn't trust it to go around the corner. A Metropolitan, a yellow Opel Kadette ... there was one beat-up car after another until, "I bought a new one to impress my wife-to-be in 1986."

Clark said he has no immediate post-retirement plans, beyond taking care of the yard in the Kaumana home he shares with his wife, Anne, and daughter Sandhya.

Dayton, 42, has worked at The Advertiser a total of 10 years. He also covered Hawai'i County government for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald for three years. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Arizona and has a master's degree in political science from the University of Hawai'i. He begins his new duties in Hilo on Dec. 16.