A chief justice, a prominent politician, a lieutenant governor and founder of the University of Hawaii law school are a few titles that defined William Shaw Richardson.
But the hundreds who gathered in St. Andrew’s Cathedral yesterday for a final farewell celebrated the life of an avid UH sports fan with a sweet tooth and "no real fashion sense."
Richardson died June 21 at the age of 90.
"As a family we certainly are aware of his public accomplishments," said grandson Peter R. Phillips in his eulogy. "But it is his enduring love and kindness for which we should cherish him most."
Phillips is one of Richardson’s six grandchildren, whom "Puna" spoiled, allowing them to stay up late and eat all the ice cream they could "because it meant he got some, too."
Richardson was described as a warm man who was there for everyone and always wore a smile. "He tended to be forgetful, but remained so charming that you didn’t mind him telling you the same story twice," his grandson said.
Born Dec. 22, 1919, William S. Richardson grew up in Kaimuki and had a mix of Hawaiian, Chinese and Caucasian ancestry. He was a graduate of Roosevelt High School, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Cincinnati, where he got his law degree. He fought in World War II and volunteered with the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment. He was chairman of the Hawaii Democratic Party in 1956 and elected lieutenant governor for Gov. John Burns in 1962. For 16 years he served as chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. The law school that bears his name opened its doors in 1973.
Expanding native Hawaiian rights to use private properties, ensuring public ownership of natural resources and giving public access to all beaches in Hawaii were among Richardson’s countless accomplishments as a chief justice.
"People don’t realize how he impacts your daily life," said Sunny Greer, a 2008 graduate of the law school.
Greer said her fondest memory of "CJ" happened in her native Hawaiian rights class. She was stunned to learn that the man whose cases they were just discussing in class was standing outside in the hallway.
"It was cool to talk to him and hear (his cases) from his own words," said Greer, a Windward resident who now works in the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at UH. "He’s pretty much my role model. He was the Martin Luther King Jr. of Hawaii."
Phillips said that as family members they understand the public impact that "Puna" had on the state, but those aspects of his life are secondary.
"For family members, however, I suppose that our fondest memories are not those of him as a politician giving speeches or as a judge draped in a robe, but those of him devouring a bowl of chocolate, taking a catnap whenever he can sneak one in, and proudly sitting in the crowd at all of the concerts and athletic events," Phillips said.
Exactly 63 years from Richardson’s death — in the same church where his life was celebrated yesterday — he married the late Amy Ching. He is survived by son Bill Richardson, daughters Corinne Wolfe and Barbara Richardson Phillips, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"He has done justice, he has loved kindness and now he walks humbly with God," Phillips said.