I just found out today one of my work colleagues in Hawaii passed away on Good Friday, April 6, 2007. I am still in disbelief that he is gone. He was a good friend with a gracious heart and was loved and respected by his family, friends, and colleagues. I met John while at the law firm of Alcantara & Frame in 1997. I was intimidated by him at first because his office was all the way down the end of the hall. His walls were covered with framed photographs of fighter jets in the sky, plaques, and awards. He was a big-shot pilot in the Air Force and his nickname was "Bucks." (I never got to ask him what that meant.) Being a former USAF Lt. Colonel, he proudly displayed the leather helmet he used to wear on his shelf. We often wondered how he managed to get into his flight suit. Obviously, he was skinnier back then. He still kept his old military ID in his wallet and it looked nothing like him. He was hard of hearing but never admitted it; partly due to his fighter pilot days, and when we relocated to our cozy "close-quarter" Halekauwila office, it was particularly difficult to do your work while he was on the phone with clients. One of his most endearing qualities was the special relationship he had with his wife. He always talked to Phyllis during his lunch hour. Always. Even when we all sat in the conference room eating lunch, whenever she would call, he would get up and talk to her for a while. If he didn't call, she did. He called his wife "fat broad" and she was far from it, and she called him her personal chef, and loved to mention she didn't need to cook anymore. Every Valentine's Day he made sure to go to the same florist downtown and buy his wife a huge bouquet of flowers. They were high school sweethearts. He loved his kids. One of his daughters is a nurse and he respected her profession, although crudely so. Whenever we would handle injured crewmember cases, we would hire nurse case managers. He always said in passing that it takes "a special kind of person to be a nurse, especially when you got to wipe someone else's ass." Every August or so, he and Phyllis would take a month-long family vacation to New Hampshire to visit his other daughter and her family. He also spoke a lot about his son who lives in Colorado. He always mentioned to me he was in a band and owned/managed his own franchise shop. He loved his grandkids. He sometimes walked around the office with a plastic bag collecting punched-out circles from the hole punchers to give to his granddaughter so she could throw it in the yard as confetti. Whenever his granddaughter came over to his house, he always bought her something sweet before he went home for the day. I always accused him of intentionally giving his granddaughter a sugar high before she went home to her mom and dad. He said, "That's the beauty of grandchildren. I can spoil them all I want and I can give them back to their parents." Payback, huh? Over the years, I found it easy to talk to him. He welcomed you into his office and would sit and shoot the breeze with you. He definitely had pearls of wisdom and he always came up with the weirdest catch phrases that you knew only people his age would have said when they were young. Or maybe it was a military thing. If you would walk in Downtown Honolulu with him, at least one person would stop to say "hi" to him because he knew so many people. As a boss, he appreciated my work and spoke highly of those whom he really thought did a good job. He wouldn't bullshit about work performance if he didn't think you were up to par. He gave me many opportunities to learn about maritime law and procedures and gave me a lot of responsibilities as a paralegal. He encouraged me to go to law school and touted it as the best education anyone can receive. He used to say, "Go to law school for the education, but don't be a lawyer." I remember sometimes he would take on pro bono cases that ended up as "nightmares" with needy clients who called all the time and mounds of paperwork. Maybe he didn't want to say "no," but I think he did it because he genuinely wanted to help people. He rarely got angry but you knew when he was pissed. He liked to play solitaire on his computer and sometimes made an effort to shift the monitor so you couldn't see it when you walked into his office. On any given day, he was always the first one in and the first one out of the office. But when it came time for trial, he was the first to arrive and the last to leave. His favorite office tools were the legal-sized yellow pads and mechanical pencils he stuck in most of the case files with his handwritten notes. Whenever he went on vacation, he always made sure we had his cell phone number and made it a point that even when he was out of town, we could still reach him by dialing 808-and his number. (We already knew that -- but he always reminded us.) I last saw John in June of last year (2006). Out of the three partners, he was the only one in the office; Bob had left for lunch, Mike was out-of-town for a meeting. He met my youngest one, who was 6 months old at the time. He looked strong and healthy. I can't believe he's gone now. I was thinking about him last Thursday when I brought my daughter to O'Callaghan Hospital at Nellis AFB. There were jets flying overhead and a couple that just took off and I thought, "Wow, I can't believe John used to do that." On Saturday, on a day trip to L.A., I was talking to my sister and told her that according to my friend, law school was probably the best education you could get, even if you weren't going to practice law. It's weird that he was in my thoughts and then to find out the sad news. I'll miss you, John. My heart and prayers go out to Phyllis and your family. Whenever I sit down to eat cheesecake, I'll always remember to pair a nice thick red wine with it -- just for you.
In loving memory of John O'Kane, Jr. August 4, 1939 - April 6, 2007