Galdeira a legend in officiating
By Ferd Lewis
They packed Honolulu Stadium to watch an array of stars in the 1970 Hula Bowl, including Heisman Trophy running back Steve Owens of Oklahoma.
But the most talked-about run that day turned out to be by a 43-year-old referee, Earl Galdeira.
When a spectator came out of the stands during a timeout, grabbed the ball off the field and fled, Galdeira took up immediate pursuit of a man half his age for more than 40 yards before making a leaping tackle in the diamondhead end zone as spectators and a national television audience watched.
It was an incident that not only made Galdeira part of Hula Bowl lore but also said a lot about the dedication to duty of the man who died yesterday at age 79.
"He was very dedicated to his profession," said Frank White, a Western Athletic Conference official who was among many mentored by Galdeira. "When he worked a game, he was all business," White said.
When first-down yardage was in doubt, Galdeira used to get down in push-up position and eyeball the situation before springing up and rendering a ruling. "That was classic Earl; he wanted to make sure he got it right," White said.
Galdeira was a supervisor at Hawaiian Telephone, where he worked for 42 years before retirement. But the passion of the former Kamehameha Schools running back was football officiating. Galdeira, who worked high school, college and World Football League games, used to say that referees had to be rulebook lawyers in split-second situations.
Galdeira did it well enough to earn a place in the College Football Hall of Fame. One of his career moments came in 1976 when the Big Eight Conference, at the behest of then-Nebraska athletic director Bob Devaney, called him to work with a conference crew on the UH-NU game. Galdeira was the first local official to work a Mainland postseason game, the East-West Shrine Game, and also drew the Japan Bowl.
Perhaps one of the reasons Galdeira took such swift chase in the 1970 game was that the Hula Bowl occupied a special place in his heart. Galdeira worked his way up from a locker room attendant in the early 1950s to a game official, a position he held for 25 consecutive games. Later Galdeira became the bowl's player relations director and ambassador.
But his place in island sports history was long before assured as the referee who made a "tackle" in the Hula Bowl.
Family members said Galdeira had been suffering from dementia for a couple years. He is survived by his wife, Frances, five children and eight grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8044.