Curtis Kekoa, 87, renowned war pilot
Retired Air Force Col. Curtis Kekoa, who flew more than 100 fighter and bomber missions in World War II and the Korean War, died March 18 at Tripler Army Medical Center. He was 87.
During a 31-year military career, Kekoa also piloted C-54 cargo planes during the 1946-48 Berlin Airlift, served as director of operations of the Royal Thai Air Force Advisory Group during the Vietnam War, and held staff appointments at the North American Air Defense Command and military headquarters in Hawai'i.
After retiring from the military, Kekoa entered law school and began practicing in Hawai'i at the age of 57. He went on to lead a statewide campaign for selection of Native Hawaiians to serve as trustees of the Bishop Estate.
Born Nov. 19, 1920 in Honolulu, Kekoa grew up in Waipahu, graduated from the Kamehameha Schools and joined the Army Air Corps in 1942, his son, Kevin, said.
In World War II, Kekoa piloted B-17 bombers, flying 20 combat missions in the European theater; during the Korean War, he flew 100 F-84 fighter jet missions.
His service citations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with seven Oak Leaf Clusters; Bronze Star Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; Air Force Commendation Ribbon; and Legion of Merit.
Of pure Hawaiian ancestry, Kekoa earned his law degree from the University of Southern California in 1977, and served as chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for a Hawaiian Trustee (of the Kamehameha Schools/ Bishop Estate); was a member of the Military Officers Association of America, the Order of Daedalians and the American Legion; and was former president of both the Waialua Hawaiian Civic Club and the Kamehameha Schools ATP.
He is survived by his wife, Jane Takahara Kekoa; a daughter, Kekoa Catherine (Edmund) Enomoto of Kula, Maui; three sons, Curtis Jr., Kevin and Kaleolani; stepdaughters, Lawrie Ikeda and Kris Fukunaga; a brother, Richard Dagampat; a sister, Leimomi Daboda; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Friends may call from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 28 at the Kamehameha Schools chapel, with service at noon. The family requests aloha attire and no flowers.
Interment will be at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery. Leeward Funeral Home is assisting with the arrangements.