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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 18, 2007

Co-star of popular kids' show dead at 88

 •  Obituaries

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jim Hawthorne

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Jim Hawthorne, the original host of the "Checkers and Pogo" show on Hawai'i television, has died. He was 88.

Hawthorne helped create the long-running children's TV show and was the first of three men to play the "Checkers" role. He died of congestive heart failure in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Nov. 6, according to his son, Scott.

From 1967 to 1982, thousands of Island children tuned in every afternoon to watch the popular show, in which Hawthorne, and then others, delighted viewers with a whacky array of friends and adventures.

After a flamboyant career in radio and early television, Hawthorne moved to Honolulu in 1965 to work as an executive for KGMB-TV.

When then-station owner Cec Heftel decided to start an afternoon children's show, Hawthorne took on the original Checkers role but soon gave way to Dave Donnelly and then Jim Demarest, the longest-running Checkers.

Hawthorne also served as a "man-on-the-go" reporter for KGMB and later KGU radio, covering everything from celebrity events to the Vietnam War.

He left Hawai'i in 1970.

Born in Colorado, Hawthorne got his first job in radio in 1940 and after serving in World War II worked for several radio and television stations, featuring a wildly inventive personality and diverse musical playlist.

"He was one of a kind," said Barry Hansen, the syndicated radio host known as Dr. Demento. "There was no one else like him on radio at the time, totally free-form, off-the-wall, and making great use of humor."

For the past few years, Hawthorne was a resident of the Buena Vista Care Center in Santa Barbara, where he used a laptop computer to produce several local cable access variety shows featuring staff members, fellow residents and their children.

"He just had fun down to the very end," his son said.