Attorney Luna dies, 74

During more than 40 years as an attorney, B. Martin Luna represented developers at state and county hearings for many resorts and other large projects in Maui County.

But he also worked for restaurant owners and smaller landowners, guiding them through government land use and permitting processes, in his law practice focused on real estate and administrative law.

“He represented anybody that came to his office that needed help,” said developer Charlie Jencks, who was deputy director of the Maui County Public Works Department when he got to know Luna in the early 1990s. “He was always ready, willing and able to engage in discussion on an issue. He wasn’t intimidated by anything.

“He just had this demeanor and personality that was very disarming. He could get right to the gist of the issues very quickly in a very local, comfortable style and get everybody comfortable.”

The Wailuku resident, who also was active in the Filipino community and chairman of the task force for the Binhi At Ani Maui Filipino Community Center, died Sunday. He was 74.

“Martin was a true leader in our community and a good friend of Ann and myself personally,” Mayor Alan Arakawa said. “His expertise in law was complemented by his good humor, aloha and professionalism.

“On a personal note, Martin emceed both the 2011 and 2012 State of the County events, and it will be impossible not to think of him as we prepare for the event again this year. His presence will be deeply missed. Aloha, Martin, and God bless.”

Luna was born July 25, 1938, in Waimea, Kauai, where his parents worked on the sugar plantation. He earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in political science from Emory University in Georgia.

After being honorably discharged from the Air Force, Luna received his law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Admitted into the Hawaii bar in January 1968, Luna built his law practice at Ueoka and Luna, then at Carlsmith Ball, where he was a partner in the firm’s Maui office.

“It’s a tremendous loss for the community,” said Wailuku attorney Paul Mancini, who was friends with Luna for more than 40 years, starting in the early 1970s when there were only about 15 lawyers and no major resorts on Maui. “Martin was really the best there is in human beings, the way he cared and respected his family, the community and his friends.

“He was the ultimate professional as a lawyer. He had the charm and the wit and the care for others. He’s the type of person you can’t replace.”

While battling illness, Luna had been active in his law practice, testifying in November at a state Land Use Commission hearing on two Kihei shopping centers.

Over the holidays, Jencks said he participated in a conference call with Luna, who was working with Jencks on three major projects.

“He worked until the last few days,” said Vince Bagoyo, who had known Luna since the early 1970s. “He’s one of my best friends. He’s kind of my mentor.”

Luna had served as Democratic Party chairman on Maui. Bagoyo, a former Maui County Council member, said he would joke with Luna about being sorry that Luna had persuaded Bagoyo to run for elected office. Later, when Bagoyo was vice president of Castle & Cooke, Luna represented the company as it moved forward with development of its two resorts on Lanai.

Luna represented many other developments as well. “He has fingerprints on many of the best resort developments on Maui, first-class projects throughout the county,” Bagoyo said.

He said Luna was working on a couple of Bagoyo’s current development projects.

The day after Christmas, Bagoyo visited with Luna in the hospital, where he ordered his favorite Filipino dish pinakbet.

“He was in great spirits, that’s what I remember,” Bagoyo said. “He modeled how to live.”

Bagoyo was president of the Maui Filipino Community Council when he appointed Luna to be chairman of the task force to create the Binhi At Ani Maui Filipino Community Center. Luna said he would take the position for one year. He would later joke that 13 years later, he was still chairman.

“He wanted to see it to completion,” Bagoyo said. “He’s probably one of the key people instrumental in making sure that it was built.”

In 2005, Luna was honored at a testimonial dinner organized by the Maui Filipino Centennial Celebration Coordinating Council. He also was recognized as a Filipino leader in the community.

When he arrived on Maui from the Philippines in 1970, attorney Antonio Ramil worked as a legal assistant for Luna and his then-partner, Meyer Ueoka.

“He introduced me to a lot of people,” said Ramil, who is from Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, where Luna’s mother also was from. “Through his inspiration and motivation, I became active in community service also.

“He’s a wonderful person. He was a good boss and fair. He is the type of person who can work with everybody.”

In the mid-1980s, Luna was elected president of the Hawaii State Bar Association, becoming the first attorney from the Neighbor Islands to hold the position, Ramil said.

“That’s how well-liked he was,” Ramil said.

Luna is survived by his wife, Kay; sons Neal and Dane; daughter Kari Nunokawa; and six grandchildren.

A celebration of Luna’s life will be held Saturday at Ala Lani United Methodist Church in Kahului, with visitation beginning at 3:30 p.m., followed by a service at 5:30 p.m.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at