Rancher James M. Greenwell dead at 88
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
Hawai'i's cattle industry lost one of its pioneers Tuesday when James M. Greenwell died at his home in North Kona. He was 88.
While heading the Hawai'i Meat Co. on O'ahu, Greenwell was responsible for establishing at 'Ewa the state's first modern, mechanized commercial cattle feed lot. The operation allowed Hawai'i-bred cattle to be finished and marketed locally, and provided meat of a quality comparable to grain-fed beef imported from the Mainland, said his son, James Greenwell.
The elder Greenwell was in the saddle until age 79, driving cattle, branding calves and working the family's Palani Ranch. He was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame in 2001.
"His first love was the cattle business. He probably spent his happiest times on a good horse looking at good cattle," his son said.
Greenwell was born Aug. 17, 1915, in Honokohau. He was the grandson of Henry N. Greenwell, who arrived in Hawai'i in 1850. His parents were Frank R. and E. Violet Greenwell. He grew up on the family ranch at Hualalai, and after graduating from Punahou School in 1933, Greenwell was picked to run Kohala Ranch, a part of Parker Ranch at Pu'uhue. He was 18 years old.
Five years later, he was appointed general manager of Hawai'i Meat Co., Parker Ranch's production and marketing operation. At the time, most of the cattle in Hawai'i were fattened on the range, but in the 1950s demand for grain-fed cattle finished in feed lots was growing, said son James Greenwell.
He said his father responded to the market change by starting the modern feed lot operation in West Loch, which later expanded and moved to Campbell Industrial Park. The cattle industry changed again in the 1990s, James Greenwell said, and most Hawai'i cattle producers now ship their animals to the Mainland and Canada for finishing.
After leaving Hawai'i Meat Co. in 1962, Greenwell served as president of various family-owned businesses in Kona, including Lanihau Management Corp. and Lanihau Corp. The two companies were later reorganized into Lanihau Properties LLC, which manages and develops family properties in and around Kailua that are not suitable for pasture.
As president of Palani Ranch, with 1,600 head of breeding cattle grazing on 15,000 family-owned and leased acres in North Kona, Greenwell developed and successfully marketed "Kona Brand Yearling Beef."
Greenwell was active in the West Hawai'i community and served as chairman of the Board of Governors of Hawai'i Preparatory Academy and chairman of the Hawai'i Leeward Planning Conference. He was a past director of Hawaiian Telephone Co., Hawaiian Airlines, Lewers & Cooke, Von Hamm Young Ltd., the Hawai'i Corp., and Hawai'i Meat Co.
Friends and family may gather in his memory at 4 p.m. Feb. 26 at the family home in Kona. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Christ Church in Kealakekua, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy or the Kona Historical Society.
In addition to his son, Greenwell is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, the former Martha Lowrey; daughter Wendy Craven of Pu'uanahulu; brother L. Radcliffe Greenwell of Waimea; sister Barbara G. Fitzgibbon of Kona; five grandchildren and a great-grandson.