Homer A. Maxey Jr., who was instrumental in the formation of Hawaii’s Foreign-Trade Zone program, died April 14 at his Kailua home.
The 92-year-old left such a mark on international trade that in 2014 the Homer A. Maxey International Trade Center at Pier 2 in Honolulu Harbor was named in his honor. He was also honored with numerous state and national awards.
But those who knew Maxey said he was a humble man who found his true legacy in acts of kindness and love of family.
His son, Rick Maxey, told the Star-Advertiser on Sunday that his father was “very accomplished but extremely humble. He didn’t need the fanfare. He didn’t need his name on a building.
“That encapsulates Homer and his character — he was all giving and didn’t need anything in return. Unfortunately, we live in an age where there has to be a reason, and there really doesn’t. You don’t have to have a reason to do something right or something that is helpful to others.”
The building dedication wasn’t the only large honor bestowed on Maxey, who also was one of the 10 founders of the National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones and served as its first president from 1973 to 1975.
NAFTZ conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award on Maxey and established the Homer A. Maxey Advocacy Award, given to an industry professional who is nationally recognized for their work on behalf of the association.
Hawaii’s international trade industry hit many firsts under Maxey, who was considered an industry pioneer. Under Maxey, Foreign-Trade Zone No. 9 was the first in the U.S. to receive the President’s “E” Award for Excellence in Exporting.
Maxey became the first administrator of FTZ9 in 1966 and stayed in that leadership role until his retirement in 1993.
Gov. David Ige said in a statement, “Homer Maxey helped build Hawaii’s future at a critical point as the state pivoted toward an expansion of its economic base. His work in the maritime and international trade industries was immeasurable.”
Maxey helped Hawaii’s economy expand and become more industrialized by establishing the first oil refinery to use FTZ procedures in its operations. He also established the first flour mill operations to utilize an FTZ for export markets, and the first manufacturing operation for export markets.
David Sikkink, FTZ9’s current administrator, said in a statement, “Homer exemplified the aloha spirit and will be sorely missed.”
“When Mr. Maxey started with FTZ9, there were only eight other Foreign-Trade Zones in the U.S. Currently, there are 294 approved Zones and 857 Subzones nationwide,” Sikkink said. “Through his visionary work and dedication to the Foreign-Trade Zone program, he created an indelible legacy not only for local industry, but one that is recognized nationally.”
Maxey was born June 11, 1928, in Koloa on Kauai, where his mother was part of the large Hawaiian Brandt family. He was a member of the class of 1946 at Punahou School and attended the University of Hawaii.
He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War but was stationed in Hawaii. He worked at Hawaiian Airlines and then at Matson Navigation Co. where he met his wife, Mahina Trask Maxey.
The couple were married in 1956. Maxey was holding hands with his wife when he died on their 65th anniversary.
Rick Maxey said his father sang “Happy Anniversary” to his mother while he was in the hospital prior to their anniversary but willed himself to live just long enough to mark one more year of marriage.
Mahina Maxey recalled, “We shared everything in our lives together.”
“He was a very, very easy man to fall in love with. He was just the nicest person that I’ve ever met,” she said. “He was very loving and very thoughtful. It just clicked with us, and we had all of these children, it seemed like one on top of each other, but it was wonderful. He taught the children to surf and sail boats and go diving.”
Rick Maxey said the family is still working on funeral arrangements, but he said they intend to scatter his father’s ashes from a boat, which will be renamed the Homer A. in his father’s honor.
In addition to Rick Maxey and Mahina Maxey, Maxey is survived by children Leanne Morin, Mark Maxey and Maile Ford; brother Donald Maxey; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.