Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Jerry Chang supporting our Vets on Thursday at 5K run/walk

Jerry Chang

In just a few days we’ll be celebrating my favorite holiday, Veteran’s Day, as the Big Dog will be hosting a 5K run/walk starting in the parking area of Coconut Island in Hilo.

Veteran’s Day is a chance for the community to say thank you to the many men and women who have served their country.

One such patriot is Jerry Chang who joined the Army in November 1967 and was a Special Forces Medic with the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) before being honorably discharged as a Sergeant in 1970.

“I got out of the Army on a Friday and the very next Monday started civilian work as a Surgeon’s Assistant at the North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill,” Chang said.  “Chapel Hill is a pure college town and the home of the Tar Heels.  The entire community and economy is dependent on the College.”

Chang was born and raised in Hilo, growing up in Pahala for the first six years of his life where he was temporarily ‘hanaied’ by his Aunt and Uncle Quitoriano.

“My first organized sport was biddy boxing at the age of 10 under Coach Jack Matsui, who also was my baseball and basketball coach,” Chang said.

Through his involvement in youth sports Chang traveled to Los Angeles with an all-star baseball team at age 12 and his interest in sports blossomed as a result.

“While at Hilo Intermediate School I was on the long distance track team where I held the record for the 440 yards and at Hilo High I was on the track team as a hurdler and ran the 440,” Chang said.

Chang continued with his boxing under his uncle, John Chang, who ran the Wanderers Athletic Club.

“I also played football for Hilo High as a quarterback.  I tried boxing and football at the same time, but had to decide on one or the other because it was during the same season.  I chose football, but still loved the sport of boxing,” he said.

After high school Chang attended Mauna Olu Junior College on Maui and became the co-captain on the basketball team that played in the local senior league.

Following his military service Chang made his way back home and attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo where he became involved with student government and lobbied at the Legislature for student housing and funding for programs and facilities.

“My active involvement in student affairs was what got me interested in politics.  I felt then and still do now that Hilo is a perfect College town, just like Chapel Hill,” he said.

Shortly thereafter Chang found himself working a session at the State Legislature for then Representative Andy Levin.

“I decided to run for Andy’s seat when he decided to run for the State Senate.  Andy was a good role model and I admired his work ethics, communication skills, his healthy eating habits as well as his long distance running prowess,” Chang said.

The inspiration that Chang got from Levin led him to become a long distance runner and accomplish the mighty task of completing seven marathons (distances of 26.2 miles) with a personal best time of 3 hours and 15 minutes.

“After a motorcycle accident that left me with two less toes and a skiing accident that has caused problems with my knees, I now run just because I love it,” he said.

Chang will continue to run for fitness and to keep his weight down regardless of how slow he might be. 

“During the legislative session I run in the mornings, when I don’t have to chair a hearing, and when at home in Hilo I take my dog ‘Kimo’ for a run around my neighborhood several times a week,” he said.

Chang will make time for regular physical exercise either before the day starts or in the evenings when the sun starts going down.

Being recently diagnosed with Gall stones, Chang has begun watching his intake of oily foods and eats lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Having served 22 years in the State House, Chang is currently the Chairman of the Higher Education Committee which provides him the opportunity to support the growth of UH Hilo.

“I find legislative work exciting and quite demanding during the session because of the many deadlines, constituent concerns, and the controversial issues.  Like life itself the legislature is all about relationships, communication and persistence,” he said.

Chang has continued to give back to the community through his volunteer involvement in Toys for Tots Motorcycle campaigning, the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame, and the Big Island amateur Boxing Association which is currently being revived.

“One of the philosophies that helped me in my career is to be the best that I can be and to surround myself with people who believe in me, more than I do.  It is because of people who believed in me that got me where I am today and I appreciate that much needed support that is required to do what we do,” he said.

Coming up on Thursday, November 11, Chang will be out to support the Big Dog’s Veteran’s Day 5K run or walk starting at 7:30 am from the entrance of Coconut Island.  The entry fee is a canned good to be donated to the Hawaii Island Food Basket.

Post race refreshments will be provided by Jerry Chang and his friends.

“As a veteran I know the sacrifices and service of our servicemen and women and my participating in the 5K run is the least I can do to show my appreciation,” Chang said.

For more information on the Veteran’s Day 5K run/walk call 969-7400. And someday should you see a proud Vietnam Vet come strolling through Bayfront remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at wiakeabigdog@aol.com

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Andy Levin still giving back to the Big Island

Hilo's Andy Levin

I’m always impressed with the numerous service and volunteers organizations that continue to give to our community.

   The Lions Club, the Elks, Key Club, Leo, the list goes on and on, hardworking people that find time to give service to those around us.

   So naturally, when I find someone who is healthy and fit and who is a role model of giving service to our community it makes perfect sense to feature them in one of my columns.

   Andy Levin has lived in Hawaii since 1969 and ever since then he has been helping others within our community.

  Levin was born and raised in New York City where he grew up playing baseball and football in high school.  “I played lightweight football in college,” Levin said.  “It was full contact football, but you had to weigh less than 154 pounds.”

  In baseball Levin’s high school team won the New York City Championships and the young Levin had dreams of playing center field for the Yankees.  “I broke my collarbone running into a wall chasing a fly ball and that ended that dream,” he said.

  Following high school Levin went onto college where he got his law degree and a chance to come to Hawaii.  “I knew I wanted to work in Legal Aid,” he said.  “I applied for a national fellowship, got it, and asked to be sent to Hawaii.”

   Levin came to our beautiful state more than 40 years ago with a one-year contract and never left.  While in Hilo he played a little baseball for Jimmy Correa’s Eagles, “I played briefly and badly,” he said.

   As most of you know Levin went on to politics and served two years on the County Council, eight years in the State House, 12 years in the State Senate, and another eight years as Executive Director to Mayor Harry Kim.

   Not content to work only one full time job, in those early years, Levin worked part time loading bags for Aloha Airlines while he worked full time for Legal Aid. “It was a great job (Aloha Airlines) and I only gave it up when I got elected to the Council and did not have enough time to do three jobs,” Levin said.   

   At another point in his life Levin was a part-time assistant professor at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and the community college.

   It wasn’t until 1980 that Levin discovered multi benefits of running.  “I started running because of Connie Chun, who was famous as the matriarch of the Hunky Bunch,” Levin said.  “Connie and I were elected to the House in the same year and she gave me the Jack Scaff book which had a title something like ‘Your first Marathon’.”

   Dr. Jack Scaff helped start the Honolulu Marathon in 1973 and in 1974 began the Honolulu Marathon Clinic.  Scaff is considered a pioneer in the field of marathon running and in 2003 he was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.

   Chun and her family ran multiple Honolulu Marathons and several of her children went on to become physicians and continue to run today.  Her daughter June won the first Honolulu Marathon while attending Roosevelt High School at age 14.

   So naturally Levin was initially lured into running by the best and most influential runners of the day.

   “Motivation was the challenge for me in trying to do my first marathon (26.2-miles),” Levin said.  “The question was could I do it?”

   During this same period Levin had also taken up tennis and was frustrated each time he was rained out.  “Running could be any time of day in any weather,” Levin said. 

   Levin went on to complete 10 marathons in Honolulu, Hilo, Kona and Maui and his best time is an amazing 2 hours, 48 minutes and 56 seconds.

   Thirty years later Levin can still be found jogging along the roadways of East Hawaii.  “I continue now because I’m hooked,” he said.  “I want to stay in shape and I believe that running is good for both my mental and physical health.”

   At age 63 Levin rotates his days of running with pushups and sits ups, going out for a run three to four times per week.  With the cool mornings in Volcano Levin will reserve his runs for the afternoons.

   “I’ve never liked running in the morning and rarely go out in the rain unless I’ve missed several days in a row,” he said.  “On nice afternoons, running in Volcano is a pleasure, and often I’ll run in Hilo if I’m in town for something else.

  Today Andy Levin considers himself retired, but continues his volunteer service to the community as he serves on several boards.  “I sit on the State Board of Legal aid Society; a non-profit involved in workforce development (HIWEDO); and the Hawaii Island Healthcare Alliance,” he said.

   Levin is also active as a Red Cross volunteer where he has gone to Louisiana for Hurricane Ike and to American Samoa for last year’s tsunami/earthquake.

  Andy Levin serves as a great role model in the amount of service he gives to our community and as a person that continues to make time to stay healthy and fit through regular physical exercise.

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments