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Doi to be honored by Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival


As Hawaii celebrates 50 years of statehood, the 16th Annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival remembers retired politician and legal professional Nelson Doi on Saturday, Feb. 7. 

The Waimea octogenarian – who co-wrote and delivered Hawaii’s state constitution to Washington – will be recognized at the start of the 9 a.m.-3 p.m. community festival. Mayor Billy Kenoi will honor Doi with a commemorative plaque on the entertainment stage behind Parker Ranch Center.

On the verge of an exemplary career that spanned all three branches of government – judicial, legislative and executive – Doi was a 28-year-old deputy county attorney when he attended Hawaii’s pre-statehood Constitutional Convention in 1950.

“I was one of the youngest delegates to the convention,” Doi said. “There were two of us responsible for the language of the constitution, myself and Attorney General Nils Tavares.” 

Doi also helped “sell the Constitution” to islanders and took it to Washington for approval by the U.S. Congress and the president. A mounted copy of the Hawaii State Constitution still hangs in the Waimea office of Dr. David Doi, DDS, son of Nelson and his wife of 60-plus years, Eiko.

While Doi was an important player in securing statehood, he is better known for his tireless service in the state Senate, the Third Circuit Court and as lieutenant governor.

Doi, who grew up in Hilo and Kawaihae, showed his skill with words at an early age. He competed on the debate teams at Honokaa High School and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  

Known for a direct approach and “cut-to-the-chase” style of dealing with people and issues, Doi still speaks of his first days in the Hawaii State Senate as if it were yesterday.

“I sat there and listened and after 30 days, I got fed up because nothing was happening,” Doi said. “So I went to Majority Leader Herbert Lee and I told him it was time to speak up, get things done. I was very frustrated.”

After that, Doi was outspoken in his passion for good government and democracy. His mode of operation in the legislature was to get the facts and find out how to help solve the problem. 

He became a champion for education reform and supported Superintendent Ralph Kiyosaki’s innovative Three on Two Program where three teachers taught two classes in a team environment. He still believes the most important component in the school system is “the teacher’s ability to control the classroom.” 

As a territorial and state senator, he earned a reputation as a maverick politician who wouldn’t hesitate to cross party lines when it served the people.

“I fought all the time for what was the right thing to do,” Doi said.

Doi assumed a legislative leadership role as Senate president in 1963 and was named one of the 10 best legislators in a Honolulu Advertiser survey. One observer noted the senator was “a brilliant speaker who knows his subject…honest, fair and cannot be pushed around by any pressure group… a true statesman.”

Doi credits many of his values to his father, Tadaichi Doi, founder of the former T. Doi Store in Kawaihae. An independent thinker, the senior Doi installed a strong work ethic in his six sons, and told Nelson, “you have to fight for your people.” 

After 15 years in the Senate, and trips to Korea and Japan representing President Johnson, Doi was appointed to the Third Circuit Court in Hilo, a job he held for four years. 

“Being a judge came naturally to me,” he said. “I can make decisions easily.”

In 1974, Doi successfully ran for lieutenant governor and served one term under Gov. George Ariyoshi. In that office, Doi promoted wellness and exemplified his stance on health by participating in three Honolulu Marathons with Eiko. 

As lieutenant governor, Doi was an advocate of prison reform, delving into problems at Halawa Prison. He also didn’t let the governor stand in his way when he wanted things done, such as securing security for bullied Caucasian students attending Kailua High School.

“Ariyoshi refused to provide guards at school, so I worked with the DOE to obtain federal grants to pay for it,” Doi said. “Schools should be safe.”

After losing a bid for Honolulu mayor to Frank Fasi, Doi served as a judge in the Marshall Islands before retiring to Waimea in 1980. Invited to help with the establishment of a North Hawaii hospital, Doi was instrumental in joining divergent community groups to agree on a Waimea location, citing the “golden hour rule” for residents traveling from Waikoloa, Kohala, Honokaa or Waimea.

Always supporting the working guy, Doi also helped organize agricultural co-operatives – for sugar, coffee and macadamia nuts – “because as a group, the farmers could better market their product and buy supplies cheaper.”

Not a politician who worried about personal gain or stature, Doi sums up his political career in his typical, straight-talking style, “I’ve done battle with union, business and party leaders because my obligation is to the people. The party is only an instrument, a tool for doing a good job. It’s about serving the people.”

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival offers a range of activities from the Parker Ranch Historic Homes to Hawaiian Homestead Farmer’s Market. For information, 961-8706.

One Response to “Doi to be honored by Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival”

  1. J,J, Ennegon says:

    I remember going to Doi store, back in 1980, when I lived in puako,and waimea. I was working at puhakaloa training facility. Doi store, was my favorite place on Big Island. Mrs. Doi made us the best deli-sandwiches! Also, there were the best t-shirts around. Very kind, blessed people, the Doi’s. I’ll never forget my brief stay, on Big Island. And I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Mrs. Doi,and the Doi store. God Bless. Any one remember, the Redwater Cafe? Or, the “Su-tique” owned by Su Kawamoto? How about the “Harbor Hut”? “Doi Store” was the inspiration for my favorite e-mail address. J.J.E. Glendale, Arizona


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