Pat Bigold’s first impression was not indelible.
“You kind of hate the guy,” mused Cal Lee, former head coach of the Saint Louis School football team, of the newspaper reporter. “But the more we talked, we became good friends. I respected him. I liked him. I think I had a few beers with him down at (Saint Louis’) Alumni Clubhouse.”
Bigold, whose diligent reporting and no-filter opinions drew unabashed reactions — warm and harsh — during a career as a Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter and then media consultant, died on Christmas Eve following a long illness. He was 69.
Bigold’s tireless efforts went beyond deadlines — and finish lines. Bigold, who grew up in Massachusetts, was among a group to initially report that Rosie Ruiz had taken shortcuts to become the first woman to break the tape in the 1980 Boston Marathon. Ruiz was stripped of the title.
In 1988, Bigold uncovered the ruse that “Bradt Nava of Paraguay” was actually David Tsebe, a South African competing in the Honolulu Marathon. Tsebe, with a sizable lead, appeared to slow down on the final stretch to finish second — a tactic that would maintain his alias. At the time, South Africans were ineligible to compete in international events because of their country’s practices of racial discrimination.
A decade later, Bigold broke the story that Saint Louis football players threw a party before a game in Las Vegas that involved underage drinking and damage to hotel rooms. Bigold had contacted housekeepers and security guards to affirm the accounts. The story created a strain between Bigold and school officials. But in the end, Bigold regained Lee’s trust.
“The more I got to know him, the more I felt he was doing his job,” Lee said. “The more we got to know each other, not just a writer and a football coach, we became really good friends. He was a nice guy. … He did a great job. He had all the tough questions.”
Bigold, who served in the Army, was stationed in Hawaii in the 1970s. He and his wife, Clara, were married in Honolulu. After his honorable discharge, they moved to Massachusetts, where Bigold covered politics for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. In 1983, he applied for a job at the Star-Bulletin.
“He was feisty, and was a person who knew something about Hawaii,” said John Simonds, who was the Star-Bulletin’s executive editor. “He seemed to know how to work in a competitive environment. He wasn’t bashful about intruding on people. He kind of had a little Lieutenant Columbo approach about him. He would ask questions that annoyed people. It seemed like he was an aggressive guy who could help us out.”
Simonds hired Bigold as a copy editor. It became apparent the wordsmith was better suited for covering sports. Bigold’s duties included high schools, UH and the Honolulu Marathon. His appreciation for the long-distance sport stemmed from his affinity for the Boston Marathon. His marathon columns were a must-read even outside the running community.
When the Star-Bulletin changed ownership in 2000, Bigold was not retained. Soon after, he worked as an freelance writer while also serving as the Honolulu Marathon’s media liaison.
“We had a long, fond relationship,” Honolulu Marathon president Dr. Jim Barahal said of Bigold’s tenure. “He was incredibly hard-working and passionate about what he did. At his core, he was a reporter, almost a lost art in many ways. He was a reporter from the old school, really. He was very passionate, very persistent. That was a great trait.”
Barahal said that style transcended to Bigold’s third career as a media consultant for several private schools. Bigold would champion stories to news outlets, providing videos, photos and interviews.
“He liked to promote the underdog,” former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said. “That’s what I liked about Pat.”
Sister Joan of Arc Souza, who was head of Saint Francis School for 27 years, said: “I enjoyed working with him. He did some fantastic things for Saint Francis School. … He loved the school.”
Bigold was at his best posing questions. In 1977, he approached a woman, Clara Lee, at the bus station in Kalihi. Bigold asked which bus would take him to Makiki. All of them, she replied. It was an odd request from a man whom she noticed traveled that way every day.
“I knew he knew how to get back home,” she said. “The next day, he came with a rose, and asked, ‘would you go out with me sometime?’”
Next month would have been their 43rd wedding anniversary.