Aloha and welcome aboard to the newest member of the Friends of the Natatorium board of directors: Fred Wong.
Fred, a lifelong resident of Hawai’i, is a very youthful and energetic 86 years old. He brings the perspective of an active veterans leader to efforts to bring back a memorial that, after all, was built specifically to honor veterans and their comrades who died in war.
A former technical sergeant in the Air Force, Fred served in the Asia-Pacific Theater during World War II. His last active-duty assignments were with the Hawaiian Air Defense System; he was an Air Force liaison to the Hawai’i National Guard in the turnover of its radar installations to the Guard.
He then worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, as an electronics technician and then as an engineer specializing in the installation and maintenance of long- and short-range radar and instrument landing systems used in the guidance of aircraft. He is now adjutant quartermaster of Honolulu’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8616, which has sponsored Veterans Day ceremonies at the War Memorial Natatorium for more than 20 years.
Fred sees renewal and reopening the Natatorium not just as our obligation to the memory of soldiers and sailors of World War I. It is also essential, he believes, to bring back a family-centered swimming facility, an architectural landmark that is ingrained in the history and culture of Hawai’i and essential to the unique character of Waikiki.
“It’s a great legacy, the property, the Natatorium, the whole thing,” he says. “I truly believe it should be maintained in accordance with the wishes of the people who dedicated the site and monument for the benefit of future generations.”
The role he expects to play? “I just like to sit in, listen and help when needed,” he says modestly. Well, don’t expect him to sit back for long. Someone with Fred’s tremendous energy and initiative will make major contributions to the FoN board and our activities on behalf of the Natatorium.
Fred succeeds a fellow veteran who has made major contributions of his own. Our deepest thanks go to retiring board member C. Bruce Smith, a director since 1992. Bruce, who retired from the Navy as a rear admiral after a 34-year career, has been our connection to active duty and retired military groups.
His other community activities include service as a city and county volunteer special enforcement officer for 15 years. The Friends are grateful to Bruce and salute him for his dedication and service to the Natatorium and, even more, to our country. Mahalo, Bruce!