Victor Hoonani Opiopio, a radio personality known as "Krash Kealoha" who played a key part in the music associated with the Hawaiian renaissance, has died.
Opiopio died Thursday at his home in Waimanalo after suffering from cancer, friends said. He was 61.
Opiopio, born in August 1949, worked as the program director for KCCN and was the key organizer of the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, recognizing artists for their contributions to Hawaiian music. The awards program has run for 33 years.
"Krash was a great leader," recalled radio announcer Kimo Kahoano, who worked with him.
Kahoano said under Opiopio, the station’s music programs were innovative and changing to give exposure to Hawaiian recording artists.
Harry Soria, another radio announcer, said Opiopio was the first to air, in the 1970s, a Hawaiian language program with students.
"He had vision," Soria said. "He made a difference."
Soria said Opiopio wanted to recognize emerging Hawaiian music artists and that the Na Hoku Hanohano event was started as a promotion by KCCN.
The event turned out to be so successful that a Hawaiian Academy of Recording Artists was designated to select the award winners by the second year.
Soria said Opiopio’s style of management was friendly and that he led through collaborating with the station’s staff and others, including the late Hawaiian cultural expert Napua Stevens, whose advice he sought. Stevens was the person who chose the name for the Na Hoku Hanohano, which means "the stars of distinction."
Soria said Opiopio received his radio name on the first day of work in the late 1960s, as he tripped and rolled down the stairs leading up to KCCN in Waikiki.
Radio announcer Lucky Luck was finishing his morning program, noticed Opiopio’s tumble and told listeners, "Everybody, here comes ‘Krash Kealoha,’" he said.
Before his radio days, Opiopio broke his back while he was in the military and struggled through pain most of his life, eventually losing the use of his legs.
On his website, Opiopio said the pain medication began to affect parts of his body, and he nearly died several times in 2008 while in the hospital.
Soria said Opiopio had started the website with the idea and hope of beginning an Internet music station.