Veteran journalist Russ Lynch, using his characteristic two-finger typing style, churned out 30,000 stories during a remarkable 37-year career at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
The newspaper’s former business reporter and business editor, who was active with the YMCA during his retirement, died after a brief illness on Aug. 27, just nine days after turning 79.
A longtime Kailua resident, Lynch retired in December 2003 at age 64 but stayed busy with the Y Service Clubs International, holding a variety of leadership roles in the Windward Y Service Club. He also volunteered with Meals on Wheels and enjoyed amateur photography. The New Zealand native was married to his wife, Eiko, for 46 years.
“Russ was a whiz at getting facts and quickly turning them into very readable stories, for a long time without the aid of fax machines or emails,” said Frank Bridgewater, editor of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Lynch’s editor for many years at the Star-Bulletin. “It was a big help that he had a good working relationship with all the CEOs in town, even though his articles may not always have been favorable. A real pro and a great colleague.”
His longtime friend, former First Hawaiian Bank CEO Walter Dods, said it was because of Lynch that Dods first found out that he was the heir apparent to take over the state’s largest bank.
“Johnny Bellinger was my boss at the bank and was doing an interview with Russ,” Dods recalled. “I had been promoted to president and Russ said to Bellinger, ‘Can we assume your designated successor is Walter Dods?’ Bellinger said, ‘You’re the first guy to ask that question.’ He got Bellinger to say ‘yes,’ and that was the first time I found out I was the heir apparent at First Hawaiian Bank. He would ask questions that others were afraid to ask.”
Dods’ relationship with Lynch dated back to the mid-1960s when Dods was learning the public relations business at Dillingham Corp.
“I was very active in the Gridiron Club, which was an active press club that was composed of hacks (writers) and flacks (public relations personnel),” Dods said. “Once we both got our work done, we’d meet at Columbia Inn (next door to the newspaper office on Kapiolani Boulevard) for fellowship, which is another word for drinking. We’d put down a lot of beers and talk about everything from business to politics to sports. We became good friends. … He was a fun guy to be with, lots of personality and was always true to his word.”
Dods said Lynch developed a good rapport with all the top executives.
“He bonded with the CEOs around town and could do that because people liked him and trusted him,” Dods said.
Gerry Keir, an editor, politics editor and city editor of the competing Honolulu Advertiser, said Lynch had a penchant for developing sources that led to news stories.
“Nobody had more fun being a reporter than Russ Lynch,” Keir said. “He was one of the reliable regulars at the Columbia Inn “Round Table,” where journalists and their news sources gathered for pitchers of pau hana beer. But he was also a solid business journalist, always milking sources for story ideas. Often a story by Russ would pop up in the next day’s Star-Bulletin that had its roots in a roundtable discussion the night before.”
Eiko, Lynch’s wife, said she is going to miss their walks by the ocean.
“Recently we’d go to see the ocean and walk around Kailua Beach Park,” she said. “We did that regularly in the morning and early evening.”
His daughter, Jennifer Battle of Columbus, Ohio, said her father made the most out of his life.
“My dad viewed life as a constant adventure and enjoyed it to its fullest,” Battle said. “He had a keen sense of observation, and he saw the humor and good cheer in every situation. I’m grateful that his grandchildren had a chance to know him, and I will miss him tremendously.”
Lynch’s twin brother, David, said the two were not identical twins but “were brought up as if we were one unit.”
“We were dressed alike and always referred to as ‘The Twins,’” David Lynch said. “I think we both resented this after a while, but on the positive side maybe we developed less cast-iron egos and had a bit more empathy for others. We went through school together, got into snorkel diving and went to dive spots around New Zealand together as foundation members of the Auckland Underwater Club. We created a club magazine, Underwater, and were each on the committee at various times.”
David Lynch said that through a diving club friend the two were introduced to magazine journalism.
“We learned to proofread carefully as well as write articles and supervise layouts in the old days of lead typesetting, galley proofs, etc.,” David Lynch said. “The print shop was next to our editorial building, and we were often in and out of the place checking how our work went. I think this gave Russ a deep understanding of the whole publishing business, layout as well as writing and editing, albeit in the days before computers.”
Ray Seto, a close friend of Russ Lynch and the past area president of the Y’s Men U.S. area, said Lynch played a key role in the organization.
“He was an asset to our organization for his volunteering and his accepting leadership in the Y’s Men,” Seto said. “He was the Hawaii region director (2010-11) and was webmaster for the Hawaii region.”
Lynch is survived by wife Eiko; daughter Jennifer; son-in-law Daniel; grandsons Daniel, John and Zachary; twin brother David and older brother Ron, both of New Zealand. Another brother, Peter, predeceased him.
He was cremated and a private burial will be held today at Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery in Kaneohe.
Memorial donations in memory of Lynch may be made to the Windward Y Service Club, 1200 Kailua Road, Kailua, HI 96734. A memorial gathering will be planned at a later date to accommodate family from out of town. Friends who wish to be notified are encouraged to contact Lynch’s daughter via Facebook.