The Bright Side: Inspirational wahine angler passes at 103

  • Louise Hawkins with baby Jennifer at the old Kona Inn. (Photos courtesy Jennifer Rice/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Louise Hawkins with a souvenir of her World Record skipjack tuna, or aku.

  • Louise and Cliff Hawkins on Kailua Pier with a marlin caught from their boat “Papa’s Keiki.”. (Jennifer Rice/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Trail blazing angler and long-time Kona resident, Louise Hawkins passed away quietly on Oct. 8, after a well-lived and well-traveled life spanning 103 years. Although she had given up fishing and scuba diving in her 80s, her granddaughter Jennifer Rice said, “She still did yoga three times a week and played her weekly card game until the last week of her life.”

Louise caught the marlin bug back in 1958 when she caught a striped marlin while sailing with her husband Cliff on their 29-foot sloop “Tukatu.” They were cruising from Newport Beach to Catalina Island, with then 5-year-old Jennifer on board.


Louise worked with Cliff in a business that offered them a lot of travel, both domestic and international. Though the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s they were able to experience fishing in New Zealand and Australia, detours from their business destinations in Hong Kong and Japan. They also fished Mexico from their home in Southern California. On a trip to Japan in 1960, they stopped in Hawaii and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cliff caught his first Kona fish on that trip — a 185-pound ahi — and they were so impressed with Hawaii that they bought a condo at the Ilikai before returning to California. The condo was their base while they built a home at Papa Bay Estates down in South Kona. In 1964, Louise caught her first Kona marlin and she and Cliff hobnobbed with a number of celebrities who came to fish the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They made friends with Richard Boone, Lee Marvin, Jonathan Winters and Arte Johnson, of “Laugh In” fame.

When you live to be 103 your life has a lot of chapters and the ones Louise wrote between 1982 and 1991 told the stories of the five fishing World Records she caught in those years. First was a 26-pound short0nosed spearfish caught on 16-pound test line in 1982. For her next trick she broke her own record, landing a 40-pound spearfish on 16-pound test in 1983. Later that same year, she caught a kawakawa that tipped the scales at 17 pounds, also on 16-pound test line. After that, Louise took her challenge up a notch by dropping her preferred line class down a notch, 50% down a notch to be specific. Fishing now with only 8-pound test line it was not until 1991 that she inked her name in the record book again. In this year she caught two records — a 25-pound skipjack tuna (aku) and yet another spearfish — both on 8-pound test line. The spearfish weighed 29 pounds. One of those records still stands — the 40-pound spearfish from 1983 caught on 16-pound test line.

In later chapters, Louise decided she should live mostly on land. When she dropped scuba diving and fishing in her 80’s, she took up golf. Age did not dampen the competitive spirit that led her to seek world records and one year she won a charity golf tournament at Waikoloa. She continued to play golf up though her 100th year.

All through her life, Louise looked forward to what she had scheduled the next day. Through and until the end of her remarkable life, she enjoyed art classes on Monday, wellness class on Tuesday, card playing on Friday, church on Sunday and mixed in three private yoga sessions each week as well.

We’ve all heard the old adage about death and taxes, but there is another universal truth that holds firm for each one of us and that is: no one knows exactly how much time they have to live. And in most cases, you don’t get to find that out until it’s too late to do much about it. What would you do if you knew? Fill the truck up with gas? It’s tempting to joke more about what one might do, but that’s not the topic at hand.

The topic at hand is pure theory because I did not know Louise Hawkins well at all. Her story, however, makes me wonder if living life always looking forward — in other words having a very distant mental horizon — can create a very distant life horizon? Did her indomitable spirit help Louise live well for 103 years? Her life gives one reason to ponder this theory, and further ask:

Since you don’t know how much time you have, why waste even a minute? Even if that theory is never qualified, the fact that Louise appears to have lived that philosophy, is inspirational, to say the least.

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