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Passing of a Big Island Giant

Lyman Museum
Lyman Museum

Hawai'i Island lost a local giant last week. You could call him a businessman, but that’s just one small piece of the story of someone who made Hilo his home for more than nine decades and help shape the island’s economy. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more from the Big Island.


Hilo native Fred Koehnen was just three weeks shy of 93 when he passed away on February first.  He was involved in business, government, and the military—in both World War Two and Vietnam.  Former State Senator Richard Henderson shared some memories.

"He was a great asset to the community. Fred had a terrific career.  He was Shun Kimura's Managing Director.  He was in the retail jewelry business and the furniture business, and in the stock broker business. He ran the financial end of the family F. Koehnen Ltd.

He was a man of all trades, a cowboy, in his youth he was punching cattle at Kapapala Ranch. He was a great outdoorsman, he always had horses.  He was an avid golfer. I would drive the cart, he would walk. He was a good family man,  an all around terrific guy."

Koehnen was a strong supporter of the Hilo community, serving on many boards —  the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, Lyman Museum, the Hilo Boarding School, the Herbert C. Shipman Foundation, and the Orlando Lyman Charitable Trust.

Fred Koehnen was a storyteller with an amazing recall of events, details, thoughts and feelings.  He documented his life in a 2015 memoir, Been There, Done That, Back to Hilo, which is not just a chronicle of Fred's life but the life of Hawai'i Island. 

Koehnen is survived by his wife Carolyn, his older sister Helie, four children, plus grandchildren, great grandchildren, a niece and a nephew.

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