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'Five-0' creator's widow gets to bid actor 'aloha oe'

By Mike Gordon

LAST UPDATED: 1:53 a.m. HST, Oct 29, 2010

When the phone rang in her Santa Monica, Calif., home Wednesday afternoon, Rose Freeman wasn't expecting the powerful farewell that came next. The widow of Leonard Freeman, the creative force behind the original "Hawaii Five-0," found herself on the line with James MacArthur just hours before his death.

The actor's wife, former golf pro H.B. MacArthur, had wanted to prepare Freeman. She put the two friends together.

"She put the phone to Jim's ear," Freeman said. "He heard me say goodbye. I am so blessed to have been given that gift."

Freeman read the end of a poem by Don Blanding that actor Jack Lord always read before shooting started each season of "Five-0." To repeat it almost makes her cry.

"It's said a hundred different ways, in sadness and in joy, aloha means I love you, so I say aloha oe," Freeman said.

James MacArthur and Leonard Freeman will always be linked in TV history. After Freeman shot the pilot for the series, which premiered in 1968, he decided he needed another actor to play the part of Detective Danny "Danno" Williams. So he went to an actor he had met while working on the film "Hang 'Em High" -- the 30-year-old MacArthur -- and cast him for his boyish looks and tough but sincere delivery.

"Len absolutely adored him and I grew to adore him," Rose Freeman said.

Whenever Freeman's three daughters came to visit their father and the set of "Five-0," MacArthur was the first to greet them.

Leonard Freeman died in 1974, several years before the show ended its run in 1980. But MacArthur remained a close friend of the Freeman family. He was always a warm, special friend, Rose Freeman said.

MacArthur's wife understood that when she placed the call.

"She knew Jim and I had a bond that was very special after Len died," Rose Freeman said. "He was just one of the most special people in our lives. I am so grateful to be able to say goodbye."

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