Public People, Private Passions

Hawaii’s executives work hard and play hard. Here’s a look at how some of our business leaders spend their time when they're off the clock.

December, 2004

Kelvin Bloom
President, Aston Hotels & Resorts Hawaii -SPEED FREAK

Kelvin Bloom bought his first motorcycle from a junkyard when he was 11 years old, without his parents’ permission. The young speed demon stashed and then repaired the bike at a friend’s house. When his parents did learn about his purchase, they kicked him out of the house and ordered their easy-riding son to spend the night in the back yard to think about what he had done.

Late that night, Bloom’s mother went outside to retrieve her son, but she couldn’t find him. He was riding his motorcycle.

Bloom’s need for speed not only manifested itself early, but often. At 15, he was racing motorcycles. At 17, he doctored an I.D. card and claimed to be a year older so that he could secure professional sponsorships and licensure to race in Japan. He won there many times. He hung up his racing helmet when he went to college, but in his early 30s, he started racing again, this time in Hawaii.

“I was the old man of the circuit,” says Bloom. “When you’re older, racing hurts a lot more.”

Although he retired from racing about a decade ago, Bloom’s appetite for maximum velocity hasn’t been completely satisfied. He recently purchased a Mercedes Benz CL 55, which he had “hopped up.” The street rocket now has an engine with 600 horse power, 600 feet of torque and a top speed of 220 mph. On a recent trek across the Mainland, he and his wife got the car up to 160 mph. In addition, he owns a flat-nose Porsche 930, with a top speed of near 200 mph, and a Jaguar SK8 that looks really fast.

Bloom also participates in a Fear Factor-like sport called speed skiing. It’s as scary and exciting as it sounds.

“Thrill sports are a great departure from work,” says Bloom. “When you’re going 85 miles per hour on a pair of skis or negotiating the obstacles on a motocross track, you have to have 100 percent concentration. You can’t be thinking of that staff meeting you’re going to have tomorrow.”

Bloom also owns five motorcycles, three motocross bikes and two street bikes. His prized motorcycle is a bike custom made by West Coast Choppers and Arlen Ness, both legendary customizers. “My bike is more show than go,” says Bloom. “But it can really move, if I want it to.”

 

Ken Goldstein
Executive Vice President, Computer Aided Technologies International
Linda Goldstein
Manager, Ameron Hawaii 
-KENDO AND IAIDO

Linda and Ken Goldstein fight all the time … and they couldn’t be happier.

Actually, it’s Linda, a second-degree black belt in kendo (Japanese fencing), who does most of the fighting. Ken dutifully dons his bogu (armor) and lets his wife whack away with her bamboo sword.

“Four years ago, I wanted to do something fun that would keep me flexible and strong,” says Linda, manager of environmental and community affairs for Ameron Hawaii. “Kendo came to mind. Whenever I saw it on TV, it looked like a whole lot of fun.”

Ken doesn’t mind taking a beating. It’s not like he has anything to prove. The computer consultant, who has been studying martial arts since he was 5 years old, holds a fifth-degree black belt in judo as well as being a senior fencing master of the foil, saber and epee. “Linda wasn’t interested in the martial arts for many years, because I’d probably end up being her teacher,” says Ken, who has been married to Linda for 26 years. “I decided not to compete in kendo, since I already had a couple of martial arts belts.”

Linda practices kendo three times a week at the Kaifukan dojo in Kailua. Once a week, the Kaneohe couple studies iaido with their sensei. The martial art, developed in the 1600s, uses real (but dulled) swords. The Goldsteins’ 10-year-old granddaughter has also taken up kendo.

So does the family that sticks together stick together? You betcha.

“I don’t know if our relationship has changed much, because Ken has always been supportive of what I do. He’s a good husband,” says Linda. “But I do know that he is terribly proud of me.”

 

Judith Perry 
Managing Partner, Merrill Lynch – WATERCOLORIST

Ten years ago, Judith Perry decided to return to her first love, art. The managing director of Merrill Lynch’s Honolulu office, who was living in Milwaukee at the time, enrolled in a certificate program at the famed Art Institute of Chicago. Every Saturday for five years, she took an hour-and-a-half train ride from Wisconsin, sketching her fellow passengers to pass the time.

Perry had minored in art at Pacific Lutheran University years before, but went on to earn a master’s degree in education, teach grade school and work in a women’s penitentiary before landing a job with Merrill Lynch 28 years ago.

“I was very apprehensive at first, because I didn’t have much of a portfolio to show people at the institute,” says Perry. “But I was very relieved and gratified when my work was well received there.”

Perry relocated to Hawaii five years ago, finishing up the program in Honolulu and on the Mainland. Today, she paints about five to six hours a week, mostly on Sunday afternoons. On her monthly visits to her offices in San Francisco, Hilo, Kona and Guam, Perry takes a portable watercolor kit along and paints postcards for friends. Her work has won numerous awards.

Does Perry regret not rekindling her romance with art and developing her skills earlier?

“I think the best artists bring a lot of life’s experience to their work,” says Perry. “In my career, I’ve had to deal with many different people and have had the opportunity to visit all kinds of places. All those experiences have given my art more depth and character. I don’t have any regrets at all.”

 

Ron Kent 
Retired Stockbroker – WOOD TURNER

Ron Kent’s artwork has appeared in collections at the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and even the Louvre. His luminous, wood bowls have also been presented to the Pope, Emperor Akihito of Japan, three U.S. presidents and two U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Amazingly, as successful as Kent has been as an artist, the former aerospace engineer, stockbroker and mutual fund president didn’t give up his day jobs until seven years ago, when his wife, Myra, retired from her job at Kamehameha Schools. For decades, Kent worked full time while turning bowls and other wood items in his backyard studio until the wee hours of the morning.

“I used to lay awake at night worrying about all the hours of sleep I wasn’t getting,” says Kent. “After a while I decided that I’d get up and go work in my shop.”

Today, Kent is up to four or five hours of sleep a night. Curiously, he devotes about the same amount of time to his art today as he did when he worked full time. For Kent, who pioneered the use of Hawaii’s ubiquitous Norfolk pine in wood turning, as well as a labor-intensive technique of oiling and sanding that produces a translucent finish, inspiration comes one day and one bowl at a time.

“It sounds corny, but it [wood turning] is like having a dialogue with the wood. It tells me where to cut and that changes as we go along,” says Kent, who often courts disaster when shaping his bowls’ wafer-thin walls. “Some of my best work is the result of a mistake I’ve made. I cut too deep and have to make the rest match. I’ve made about a half-a-dozen perfect 10s in my lifetime. Skill, nature and a little luck all came together. That’s the beauty of art.”

 

Sharon Narimatsu 
President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce – CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT COLLECTOR

Sharon Narimatsu loves Christmas. Really loves Christmas. Each year, the president of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce decorates her living room, family room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and all her hallways in holiday cheer. She starts putting up decorations in October, a seven-week labor of love that she does by herself. In any given year, she will use only about one-fourth to one-third of her Christmas inventory. She decorates differently and with different materials every year.

“I grew up on Molokai, and it was only during Christmas time that we would get gifts and new things,” says Narimatsu. “So for me, it was always a time of great anticipation, joy and sharing with friends and family.”

Narimatsu’s extensive collection is housed in a 400-square-foot storage area in the back of her home, a structure built specifically for her ornaments. Additional items are kept in her garage.

Shortly after the birth of her son, more than 20 years ago, Narimatsu, a history major in college, who loves all things Victorian, purchased the first of a series of Dickens Village ornaments, collectables designed after historic London landmarks. The collection exploded shortly thereafter, expanding far beyond the Charles Dickens-themed decorations. Some of her favorite ornaments include Steinbach nutcrackers from Germany, handcrafted Byers carolers and one-of-a-kind Santa Clauses, which are each worth thousands of dollars.

Narimatsu doesn’t keep her collection to herself. She estimates that she throws between 12 to 15 parties (three a week) throughout the holiday season. At each of these gatherings she’ll entertain a specific group of friends or family: grade school friends, high school chums, people from work, etc.

“My thinking is that you should go out of your way to make days like Christmas special and important,” says Narimatsu. “Otherwise, every day would be just like the day before.”

 

Don Anderson

Former President and Chief Executive Officer, YMCA of Honolulu – SHELL COLLECTOR

For young, American service men stationed on Mactan Island during the Vietnam War, free time was spent either at the bars, in the brothels or on the beach. Don Anderson, then a young Air Force captain, who loaded C-130 cargo planes on the tiny island 700 miles off the coast of the Philippines, chose the beach. That’s where he was introduced to cowries, sea snails with brilliant, eye-catching shells.

Back at home, Anderson, who became the capital campaign director for the YMCA of Honolulu in September, shelved his shells and didn’t take another look at them for more than a decade. A chance visit to a San Francisco shop piqued his interest again, and a book on cowries, a gift from his wife, renewed his passion for the shells.

“She had no idea what she was starting,” says Anderson. “Giving me that book might have been the biggest mistake of her life.”

Anderson’s collection has grown to more than 2,000 shells, which range in size from a quarter of an inch to five-and-a-half-inches long and include almost every hue of white, beige, gold and brown. So far, the well-traveled executive has collected 425 of the 585 recognized forms of cowries. Anderson says that, while his collection is extensive, it isn’t especially valuable, because he prefers to collect shells based on geographic variation, not scarcity. It’s a choice that has kept his hobby interesting and affordable.

“In my work, I have to interact with a lot of people, so it’s enjoyable to work with inanimate objects,” says Anderson. “The shells are interesting looking and have interesting stories to tell, and they don’t talk back.”

 

Tina E. Yap 
Vice President and Team Leader, Bank of Hawaii – BAGPIPER

Tina E. Yap says that it was fate. Twelve years ago, the Bank of Hawaii vice president went to a baby luau and was serenaded by a Highland bagpiper. Two weeks later, she attended a wedding, which featured another bagpiper among its entertainment.

“I thought that it was some kind of sign,” says Yap. “I always loved the sound of pipes, and I had some musical ability, so I spoke with the piper after the wedding. Two weeks later, I was driving to the Municipal Building at 8 a.m. on a Saturday for practice.”

Yap quickly learned that appreciating the sounds of the bagpipe is one thing. Playing the complex wind instrument, which is the musical world’s equivalent of patting your head, rubbing your tummy and chewing gum at the same time, is another matter altogether. Multitasking pipers blow and finger a mouthpiece called a chanter, squeeze a bag under their arm for additional wind and to “embellish” notes, all while marching in time to their music and with other band members.

However, Yap, who played clarinet in high school, quickly took to the instrument. Less than a year after her first lesson, she was voted into the 25-member Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii. Today, she is pipe sergeant (second in command) for the marching band, which represents the city’s police and fire departments, and plays in numerous parades and special events.

“Piping in Hawaii is somewhat of a white elephant. It’s not like the Mainland, where they have a lot of competitions,” says Yap, who often practices her fingering while in her car waiting for a stoplight. “But the instrument is so stirring. Soldiers, unarmed, carried it into battle. When you hear the music, there is this sense of excitement and emotion that brings tears to your eyes.

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