Bill Monahan, former lawmaker, businessman, athlete, dies at age 90

He was first local to play in Hula Bowl

Bill Monahan, who served one term in the state House, died May 30. He was a businessman, decorated veteran of the Korean War and a star athlete. — The Maui News file photo

William “Bill” Welsh Monahan Jr., who represented Maui County in the state House in the early 1980s, died May 30, 2020, in Lanikai, Oahu, after a battle with vascular dementia.

He was 90 years old.

Monahan was an athlete; decorated Korean War veteran; educator, coach and school superintendent; hydroponic gardener; and sailor of Hawaiian canoes. He was born on Oct. 23, 1929, in San Francisco.

He represented his Upcountry District 5 for one term as a Republican in 1981-82. He chose not to run for another term, his wife, Pamela, said.

His family moved to Hawaii in 1940 with his father becoming vice president of American Factors, an obituary by the family said. He recalled being a sickly child and credited Duke and Sargent Kahanamoku as his mentors for his love of the sea and improved health.

In 1947, Monahan graduated from Punahou School on Oahu, where he was a renowned football and tennis player and wrestler. He continued on to Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1951.

An all-star football player, Monahan was the first Hawaii resident to play in the college all-star Hula Bowl in 1950-51.

After college, he joined the Marine Corps and fought in the Korean War. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and was wounded in action. He eventually retired as colonel in the reserves.

Monahan returned home to Oahu and became a teacher and high school coach of two varsity football state championship teams. He married Momo Martha Wysard in 1953, and they raised two children, Daniel and Margaret, according to her obituary in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In 1962, Monahan earned a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley and a year later became superintendent of the Ross School District in the Midwest. From 1966-69, he served as superintendent of schools in Freeport, Ill.

After 15 years on the Mainland, the couple moved to Wailea. They divorced a few years later. Wysard died in 2016, according to her obituary.

Monahan married Pamela Strickfaden in 1979 and adopted his step-daughter, Sencia. The family lived in Makawao.

His business interests on Maui included being a principal in the Burger King franchises and hydroponic farming. His Controlled Environment Farming company built one of the largest hydroponic greenhouses in Hawaii.

Monahan also was involved in the movement to revitalize Hawaiian fishponds and Hawaiian canoe sailing. He made 21 Molokai Channel crossings in the Molokai Hoe race after age 51. His last race was when he was 77 years old.

In wanderlust, he moved the family to New Zealand in the late 1990s. While living there, they studied the Maori language “and felt embraced by their new Kiwi friends,” Monahan’s obituary said. He published poems, prose and stories while there.

“He sure packed a lot into those 90 years,” said his wife in an email.

Contributions in his memory can be made to The Hana Canoe Club, P.O. Box 676, Hana 96713. Services will be announced at a later date.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.


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