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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

William Kea Sr., former GTE executive, dead at 96

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

William Christian Kea Sr., a retired Hawaiian Telephone Co. and GTE Hawaiian Tel executive, died Nov. 6 at his Honolulu home.

Kea, who was known as "Uncle Billy," was 96.

He worked for the telephone company from 1925 until his retirement in 1971, starting as a part-time switchman and working his way up to vice president of public relations.

Warren Haruki, president of the telephone company, which is now Verizon Hawai'i, praised Kea's knowledge and commitment to his work.

"In our industry, there is a pride in being a 'telephony' person," Haruki said. "And Bill Kea was certainly that."

Kea contributed to the early development of the company as a technician and sales manager, Haruki said. Then, in 1965, he became the head of public affairs.

"At that time, the public relations profession itself was in developmental stages," Haruki said. "But Bill was a leader in creating programs of community outreach that are still in practice today."

Kea was a Kamehameha Schools graduate and the 1927 class salutatorian. In 1987, he was recognized at Kamehameha's 100th anniversary as the Outstanding Alumnus of the year.

He considered public service a means of showing his gratitude for being born Hawaiian, and served as a trustee of The Queen's Medical Center for 40 years. He was chairman of the Committee for Public Relations, Hawaiian Health and Comprehensive Home Care, and he served as a board member of several other organizations, including Kawaiaha'o Church, Friends of Iolani Palace and the Central YMCA.

Kea is survived by his wife, Irene. He is also survived by his sons, William Jr. and B.J; his daughter, Kehaulani; his sister, Alice; his stepchildren, Gayle Hirahara and Gary Hirata; his hanai daughters Sunshine Kassebaum and Ruth Kassebaum; and several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

Visitation is 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Central Union Church. A memorial service follows. Dress is aloha attire. The family requests no flowers.