We don’t become successful in life by just hoping it will happen. To achieve success we need strength of body and mind in order to reach our fullest potential.
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a man whose strong work ethic, attitude and self-discipline epitomize the idea that if we avoid hard work, we avoid doing what it takes to succeed.
“My parents always told me that the choices I make in life will determine who I become,” former mayor Harry Kim said.
Kim grew up in Olaa and was taught at an early age that work was an important aspect in family life.
“I never knew what it was like to have a day off or what a weekend was,” Kim said. “We were always working to help the family and that strong work ethic is what made me who I am.”
Kim’s only exposure to sports as a child came from his physical education classes in school as after school activities weren’t allowed in his household.
“I had five brothers and two sisters and we all lived in one room,” he said. “We all were expected to work 60 to 80 hours a week to help our family make ends meet. Life was really hard back then.”
Born in 1939 to second generation Korean parents who were hard working immigrants, Kim can recall living with no electricity or running water for the first 19 years of his life.
“The difficulties I had growing up is what makes me so appreciative of what I have today,” he said.
Kim’s first exposure to sports competition came as a 15 year old attending Hilo High when he asked the cross country coach what that sport was all about.
“I had no idea what cross country was and Coach Ho told me that at my age I had to run a 2 mile race. I thought to myself that it was easy because I was already running that much or more to and from school.”
To be able to participate in cross country Kim needed permission from his mother to take off from work on Saturday and he was given the okay, provided he could still do his chores.
The Kim family raised around 500 chickens and had a large vegetable garden, but a main source of income came from them weaving lau hala mats.
“We needed to pick the lau hala, stripe the leaves, dry them and then weave them into mats,” Kim said. “Sometimes we’d be up past 9 pm working on the business as we needed to help our parents.”
“On the day of my first race I woke up at 3 am to start my chores, then I hitched hiked to Hilo High and I asked Coach Ho what I should do.”
Barefooted Kim was told by his coach to run with the leader and then pass him in the last 100 years.
“I followed my coach’s advice and I ended up winning my first cross country race,” Kim said
Following high school Kim attended Hilo College and was a walk on to the basketball team.
“I had no basketball skills, but I asked the coach to give me a try and to allow me to stay on the team as I would be willing to clean the locker room and do whatever it would take to be part of the team,” Kim said.
Kim’s work ethic led him to serve two terms as our County mayor.
It was his eight year stint as mayor that Kim encountered a variety of health issues, suffering three heart attacks, back surgery, neck fusion, hepatitis, and peripheral arterial disease (pad).
“I was in pain a great deal of the time and I tried to hide my pain from the public,” Kim said. “Family members and some of the staff knew about my health problems, but I tried to disguise most of my pain from the rest of the community.”
Kim, who looks healthy and fit, has never drank alcohol, and he believes that his spiritual strength has helped him deal with the multiple problems he has faced over the years.
Kim picked up hepatitis from his trip to Honduras and when he returned from Indonesia he was stricken with an extremely high fever.
“On my return from Indonesia my temperature was 107 and I was immediately hospitalized where many of the doctors thought I was going to die,” he said. “I know my inner strength and the years of peoples prayers is what has kept me alive and continues to serve me well.”
After four shoulder operations, on his right side, and back surgery in which he had to learn to walk upright again, Kim continues to be optimistic about his health and his future. In fact, walking even became difficult and painful for him as he tried to balance his illness with the desire to stay physically fit.
“I know this is a spiritual world and that what I put into life is what I will get out of life,” Kim said.
“I want everyone to know that my health today is the best that it has ever been over the past ten years,” he said. “I am very grateful for what I have and I am blessed for the hand that has been dealt to me.”
Harry Kim is making the most of what he has and he takes a positive approach to everyday life.
“I’m so well that I am going to go looking for a job,” Kim said with a wide grin.
And someday should you happen to see a happy, healthy jogger passing through the streets of East Hawaii, remember to smile, say ‘woof’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at email@example.com.