Husband, Father, Fireman, Community Leader, Movie Star
My Dad Melvin Ah Ching Sr. came from humble beginnings, born in the plantation village of Ookala, Hawaii to proud parents Sei Tong and Mary Pawela Ah Ching on Sunday, October 9, 1927.
For the first years of his life, he grew up in Ookala’s “pake” camp, part of the sugar plantation industry and culture that dominated Hawaii through much of the 20th century. Dad attended Ookala Elementary School before attending and graduating from Laupahoehoe High School.
In 1945 Dad was an enlistee to the United States Army where he served for three years near the end of World War II and beyond. Dad trained on the mainland for the invasion of Tokyo, but was lucky to never be sent there. After being stationed at Ft. Hood, Ft. Ord and Camp Beal in California, Dad was shipped off to the Philippines where he would spend most of his Army years.
By 1949 Dad transferred to the Hawaii National Guard where he served locally until gaining civilian employment at the Hawaii County Fire Department in Hilo starting in 1952. Through his long fire fighting career, Dad was part of the Honokaa Fire Station through most of the 1950s and 60s before accepting a transfer in 1967 to the Kamuela Volunteer Fire Station to become the first full time fireman in that community. It is there after fighting numerous fires, saving many lives and property, and being promoted to captain, that Dad ended his career with retirement in 1976.
While employed in the Fire Department Dad met a young, attractive lady who he first saw dancing the hula at a party. In 1955 he wed my Mom, the former LaVerne Healani Kealoha whom he stayed married to until the end of his time. Mom and Dad had 4 children: Melvin Jr., Esther (deceased), Sandra, and Randal. He was the best Dad — often a tough disciplinarian, principled, hard working, humorous, and fun. He took us to many places on the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as on vacations to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and the mainland. He loved attending parades and public gatherings of all sorts. He encouraged us to get a good education, and seek career opportunities that could better enhance our lives.
Dad was a pillar of the Honokaa – Hamakua community. He was an active member of the Hamakua Lions Club, Hawaiian Civic Club of Hamakua, Honokaa Businessman’s Association, Honokaa Senior Citizens Center, Democrat Party of Honokaa, Hawaii County Retired Firman’s Association, Honokaa ILWU Pension Club, served on the Board of Directors of the Brantley Center in Honokaa, and the Hawaii County Nutrition Program. Dad was visible at many community functions often helping these various organizations selling food, setting up events, directing traffic, and delivering meals and stuff to the needy and the elderly.
After retirement from the Fire Department, Dad stayed very active running the MSR Ranch up at Nie Nie, being employed at Wackenhut Security at the Kohala Ranch Community Association, dabbled in some investments and even thought about driving for a taxi cab company and purchasing the Honokaa Peoples’ Theater. While employed at the Fire Department, Dad also became co-owner for a few years of Dairy Queen in Honokaa, owned, managed and developed a five unit residential apartment complex in town before selling that to the Kaneshiro family.
Near the twilight of his life, Dad continued to seek new and interesting opportunities. One day opportunity seeked him out. In 2008 Dad was cast in a small, non-speaking part for the Japanese movie, Honokaa Boy. When the movie came out in 2009 he got his 30 seconds of everlasting fame by simply giving “the shaka sign” to one of the cast members. For that he got paid $100 a day and got his name added to the end credits of the movie. I was very proud to see Dad in that movie and his name included on the ending crawl with the dozens who appeared and worked on the film. Surely this could have been the start of a new career.
Movie star or not, Dad will be remembered for his resilience, zest for life, meeting and taking on new challenges, helping many others, and being the best father and husband anyone could have. We’ll all miss you. Aloha.
Posted On December 16th, 2010 – Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Nov. 29, 2010: Melvin “Mel” Ah Ching Sr., 83, of Honokaa, Hawaii, a retired Hawaii County fire captain and an Army veteran who served in World War II, died in Hilo Medical Center. He was born in Ookala, Hawaii. He is survived by wife LaVerne K.; sons Melvin Jr. and Randal; daughter Sandra; brother Herbert; sisters Florence Calabio, Sylvia Kuanoni and Patricia Parker; and a grandchild. Private services.
Published: Sunday, December 12, 2010 8:41 AM HST
Hawaii Tribune Herald
Melvin “Mel” Ah Ching Sr., 83, of Honokaa died Nov. 29 at Hilo Medical Center. Born in Ookala, he was a retired county fire captain, World War II U.S. Army veteran and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Honokaa Ward. Services held. Survived by wife, LaVerne Kealoha Ah Ching of Honokaa; sons, Melvin Ah Ching Jr. of Honolulu and Randal Ah Ching of Las Vegas; daughter, Sandra (Patrick Prieto) Ah Ching of Honokaa; brother, Herbert Ah Ching of Hilo; sisters, Florence Calabio of Kona (Big Island), Sylvia Kuanoni and Patricia Parker of Hilo; one grandchild; numerous nieces and nephews. Arrangements by Dodo Mortuary.