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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 21, 2009

From father to son


BY Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Donn Ariyoshi, far left, says his dad, former Gov. George Ariyoshi, stressed honesty, trust and respect for elders.

Advertiser library photos

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Chuck Leahey, left, made sure his son, Jim, understood the value of his family's most precious possession: their name.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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A father's influence is undeniable and cannot be erased. We asked five Island sons to describe their fathers' legacy on this Father's Day.

Here, sportscaster Jim Leahey tells of his dad, Chuck, who provided his son with a model to follow, professionally and in life.

Donn Ariyoshi saw that his father, former Gov. George Ariyoshi, could always make time for family, even while governing a state.

Lopaka Colon learned to follow his dreams, his own drumbeat, from his father, famed exotica musician Augie Colon.

Acting coach Scott Rogers observed that his dad, Broadway producer Herb Rogers, operated on trust.

And restaurateur Eddie Flores Jr. learned respect and responsibility from his namesake's hard work, sacrifice and discipline.

WORDS TO LIVE BY

As a boy, Jim Leahey savored the words of great sportscasters.

The best of them felt the contests they watched with such intensity that Leahey was spellbound by their delivery. He could imagine himself in the stands, holding his breath in anticipation that something wonderful was about to happen.

The most important commentary, though, came from his own father. A colorful figure who was never without something to say, Chuck Leahey was one of the most prominent sportscasters in Hawai'i history. But even as he set the standard for local sportscasters in the '60s and '70s, he set the bar a little higher for his son.

His words were a blueprint for life.

Jim Leahey followed in his father's footsteps and now, at 66, has become the dominant voice in local sportscasting. Yet, even if he had stayed with teaching high school his first career the lessons of his father would have remained.

"He said you have to do your best even though it is not perfect," Jim Leahey said. "There is a distinction between doing things and doing things well, and in that difference is the difference between being respected and not respected."

Leahey passed the lesson to his three children, including his son, Kanoa, and took it into the broadcast field where he is writing his own chapter under the now-familiar name.

But respect was not the end of the lecture, of course. The elder Leahey, who died in 1982, made sure his son understood the value of his family's most precious possession: their name.

"He said if that name is besmirched in any way, that not only you suffer for it, but the entire family suffers for it," Leahey said. "The most important thing is family, for they will be the ones who will stand by you in troubled times."

LESSON REMEMBERED

Donn Ariyoshi was 12 years old when his father was elected governor of Hawai'i and the family moved into Washington Place. For the next eight years, his father, George Ariyoshi, was busy running the state a job that could easily overwhelm the daily needs of a family.

But Donn, the youngest of three children, recalled it as just the opposite.

"One thing about my dad, no matter how busy he was, he would always take the time if I wanted to talk to him about something," he said. "He would take off his glasses, turn his chair around and take the time to listen."

The advice he received has guided him for years. His father stressed honesty, trust and respect for elders, said Donn Ariyoshi, now a 47-year-old father of two and a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Even now, when his 83-year-old father sits at his dining-room table, the younger Ariyoshi said he can count on advice that underscores his father's values.

"I think one thing he emphasized was to do the right thing," Donn Ariyoshi said. "People won't judge you on who they think you are. People will judge you on what you do."

'FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS'

For Lopaka Colon, his father's words still echo within him, like a persistent backbeat, and that's appropriate because the world knows both father and son as accomplished percussionists.

"He would say 'sigue tus suenos,' which means follow your dreams," Lopaka Colon said of his late father, Augie. "That stuck with me as a little kid."

The elder Colon was the voice behind the exotic, jungle sounds behind Martin Denny's hit song, "Quiet Village." Many considered him the grandfather of percussion in Hawai'i.

Lopaka Colon, 34, has become a stand-out percussionist in his own right. He has performed with a wide range of groups, including Mick Fleetwood's Island Rumours Band and Waitiki, a seven-member exotica group honoring the style of music his father helped create.

"I always wanted to do what my dad had done but more," he said. "He is a big inspiration into what I do now."

The younger Colon said he's blessed for having had his father's advice and he's sharing it with his 6-year-old daughter. Augie Colon died in 2004.

"I guess following your dreams will keep you on a path toward that main goal that you are trying to achieve," Lopaka Colon said.

"By following your dreams, you're attaching yourself to that line in the road. I totally believe in that, and I think it has opened doors to where I am at in this moment of time."

IT'S ABOUT TRUST

If he had to describe what his father taught him about life with a single word, Scott Rogers would choose trust.

Herb Rogers was a longtime producer who introduced professional summer-stock theater to Hawai'i and brought numerous Broadway productions to the Islands. In a business ripe with egos, he would seal deals with a handshake, said Scott Rogers.

"His handshake was always good," he said. "In business, there are not a lot of people who do that. Their word is not good."

He never had anyone dispute an agreement during his 50 years of producing, said Rogers, who teaches acting in Honolulu at his Academy of Film & Television.

"If you give your word in business, you stand by it," he said.

The lesson helped the younger Rogers, who has taught for 25 years.

"I don't want to sound cocky, but I think I have a pretty good reputation," he said.

But the son is not the father, he said.

"I do use contracts," he said. "I am not my dad."

FAMILY COMES FIRST

Restaurateur Eddie Flores Jr. describes his father as the strictest of disciplinarians "almost like a dictator" but he does so with love.

The founder and CEO of the L&L Drive-Inn restaurant chain said his father instilled in him a strong work ethic and a devotion to family.

Throughout, there was never any question as to who was in charge.

"When my dad whistled, we ran home like a pack of dogs," said Flores, who was one of seven children. "We may have been playing in the street. The man called you, and you had to be home. In life it helps you understand that you have to do certain things to accomplish your goals."

His father's overall philosophy was to enjoy life, but there was no shortage of sacrifice for his family. When the elder Flores moved them from Hong Kong to Hawai'i in 1963, he went from being a professional musician to a job as a janitor.

The lessons were not lost on his oldest son.

"It was kind of degrading, but what can you do?" said Eddie Flores Jr., 63. "But he really took care of us. He tried everything he could to take care of his family."

When Flores bought the first restaurant in his chain in 1976, he gave it to his mother. He was 26 at the time.

"If not for what my dad taught me about family, I would not have done that," he said. "You look back and say how often would a son buy a restaurant for his mother?" But the sense of familial responsibility instilled by his father was a driving force in the entrepreneur's life.