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Monday, December 22, 2014         

INCIDENTAL LIVES


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Picking up trash, treating felons civilly make up life of a gentleman

By Michael Tsai

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Soiled Pampers don't just fly out of passing cars by themselves. Ditto the beer bottles that turn into heel-slicing shards once they hit the shoulder of the road.

But how they end up in Lester Inouye's path doesn't matter much to him. He picks them up with his Grabber reach extension, sticks them in his little bag and keeps walking.

"I just try to keep Mililani clean," says Inouye, 66. "You'd be surprised how much rubbish there is.

"Some people see me and say, ‘Thank you,' and others probably think I'm crazy. I'm just the old Japanese guy walking around with his fanny pack picking up garbage."

Occasionally, Inouye will come across a lost cell phone or wallet, which he'll try diligently to return to its owner.

If Inouye is not exactly a familiar sight along Lanikuhana Avenue and Meheula Parkway, it's only because there aren't many folks out and about at 3 a.m., his preferred walking hour.

"I like it," he says. "It's quiet, very serene. And you don't smell all the exhaust from cars."

Inouye, a deputy sheriff at Circuit Court, started his daily walks in 2002 as part of his recovery from triple-bypass surgery.

On weekends and holidays, Inouye tries to walk six miles. On workdays, when he might not hit the pavement until midafternoon, he'll walk three or four miles.

Inouye grew up in Koloa, Kauai, where his father worked for Grove Farms plantation and his mother at Prince Kuhio Resort.

Inouye moved to Oahu in 1963 to attend the University of Hawaii, from which he earned a business degree.

After spending the better part of 10 years working in the receiving department of Longs Drugs in Kahala Mall, Inouye applied for a position in the sheriff's office. He's been there since 1983.

The job fits Inouye's sense of community service.

"I try to catch the crooks and make Hawaii a safer place," he says.

These days, much of what Inouye does for the department involves safely transporting prisoners from various institutions to the court and back.

That means spending much time with people who don't exactly share his worldview.

"The people I deal with are felons, basically," he says. "They're the guys you read about in the newspaper. But I try to treat them with respect, like I would any other person."

Inouye says his wife, Brandon, has the typical concerns of a law enforcement officer's spouse, but, he says, "As long as I come home, it's OK."

The couple enjoys going to athletic events, especially softball games, a habit ingrained by watching their three athletic daughters — Allison, Melissa and Megan — compete in high school and college.

Inouye himself boasts an impressive athletic résumé that includes years of surfing and swimming as well as three marathons.

Creaky knees eventually ended his running days, but Inouye has no plans to give up his daily walks.

Who knows what he'll find?


Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@staradvertiser.com.






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