Remembering A Golf Pal; Life Lesson

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the recent passing of Gus Hannemann. Back in the 1980s and early ’90s, Gus, myself and the late restaurateur Henry Loui used to make the oddest of golf threesomes. Oscar and Felix had nothing on us, three guys who couldn’t be more different — ethnically, generationally, professionally, religiously — but clicking and having a great time together. Smart, funny, a savvy student of the golf swing — and of human nature — Gus never seemed to have a down day.


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Mayor Mufi Hannemann and brother Gus at the opening of Mufi's 2008 reelection campaign headquarters DENNIS ODA / STAR-ADVERTISER PHOTO

The eldest of seven children and a veteran of the Air Force (he’ll be interred at Punchbowl), Gus was the ultimate big brother and played a pivotal role in the success of his brothers Nephi, an entertainer, and Mufi, Honolulu’s former mayor and current MidWeek contributor, plotting a way for the immigrant family from American Samoa to succeed in Hawaii.

Gus delighted in telling the story of how he managed to orchestrate a lot of attention and interest from a slew of private schools over Mufi — 18 years his junior, an excellent basketball player and way tall for a sixth-grader. Even after Mufi enrolled at Iolani as a seventh grader, interest from other schools never waned, and Gus had stories galore on how he made sure Mufi graduated as a Red Raider and how Harvard became the Hannemann family’s college of choice for their “little brother.”

Gus was just as devoted to helping the Samoan community in Hawaii as he was his family, and served as director of the American Samoa government office in Honolulu — the perfect job for a Samoan high chief abroad. He was, in a sense, everybody’s big brother, always trying to help others do well.

The last time we spoke was following the funeral for Lee Afuvai, which I wrote about in November. We caught up, talked about having lunch. Then came the holidays. The lunch never happened, to my regret.

Samoa and Hawaii lost a good man, one I am grateful to have called a golf buddy. Tofa soifua … • The circle of life continues. My granddaughter Kylie Rose, whose birth I wrote about last summer, just made six months. I was visiting her the other day and got down on the floor with her. Kyles, as I call her, hasn’t quite mastered crawling, but she can get from point A to B by wiggling and rolling across the room. It was amazing to see her little brain realize that if there is something she sees and wants, no matter how distant, she can get to it and grab it on her own.

I took it as a larger life lesson, and whispered it in her ear:

Whatever you dream, baby girl, you can reach.

It’s a message I think Gus would appreciate.