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Former Land Board chairman, WWII hero William Paty dies

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From left, Frenchy Desoto, William Paty and John Waihee during a press conference in 2004.

Former state Land Board Chairman William Paty, a onetime manager for the Waialua Sugar Plantation, died on Sunday. He was 97.

Former Gov. John Waihee, who selected Paty to lead the Board of Land and Natural Resources, confirmed his death.

A Hawaii native, Paty was a 23-year-old Army captain on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he parachuted into enemy territory, was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Germans, according to a 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin story.

At one point he was shot in the groin, and he often told the story in later years about how the bullet was still lodged in his body.

He was awarded the prisoner of war medal in 1999.

Waihee and Paty served together during the landmark 1978 Hawaii Constitutional Convention, of which Paty was chairman.

“He was a real hero and a really good friend,” Waihee said.

Paty’s wife, Marguerite “Peggy” Marie Paty, died in 2012.

The couple was instrumental in saving Kaiaka Bay Beach Park in Haleiwa from development, and a portion of the park was named Bill and Peggy Paty Kaiaka Beach Park in their honor.

Bill Paty was also a onetime trustee of the Mark Robinson trust.

In a 2011 interview on PBS Hawaii’s “Long Story Short,” Paty told interviewer Leslie Wilcox that he grew up in Nuuanu, was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Punahou School and Cornell University.

When he returned home from the war, Paty landed a job at Waialua Sugar as what today would be known as the human resources director and found himself in the middle of the 1946 sugar plantation strike with the ILWU, he said on “Long Story Short.”

“It was an experience that served me well down the road, because you learned how to work with people who had strongly differing opinions of what should be done,” Paty said.

When Wilcox said Paty was thought of with affection in the Waialua community decades later because of the personal bonds he formed, he responded, “You could not be in that country situation and not be surrounded by so many good people. And you knew their kids, and you were involved with the Little League and the Pop Warner and the churches, and they’re all good, wonderful people. And if you weren’t comfortable and happy in that kind of an environment in Hawaii, I don’t know what would ever happen to you.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Paty was “a Keiki O Ka ‘Aina who cherished the land and Hawai‘i’s people, and he received so much love in return.” The 1978 Con Con he led “changed the course of island politics, which included protections for native Hawaiian rights, making Hawaiian an official language of the state and protecting our environment,” Caldwell said.

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