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INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
The Power to Overcome

 

The film Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall told Kanalu Young’s remarkable story about a courageous journey – emerging from personal tragedy to find a new meaning and passion for life. Some of us make that journey and find our way despite a childhood of unimaginable neglect. Join us for an inspirational INSIGHTS with people who found the power to overcome.

 

Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
The Land of Eb

 

This fictional story is set in the stark volcanic landscape of one of the most remote communities on Hawai‘i Island – Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. Jonithen Jackson portrays Jacob, a Marshallese immigrant father and grandfather, who struggles to provide for his large family. When Jacob overhears a cancer diagnosis from his doctor he keeps the news to himself, forgoing treatment in favor of working to pay off his property which he plans to pass down once he’s gone. Sensing his end, Jacob turns a small video camera on himself and begins to record his story – and that of his people, the Marshallese. The film is a contemplative look at a community in Hawaii still struggling to recover from the effects of the nuclear age. It is a profoundly realistic portrayal of one man’s unwillingness to let go of his dignity and the hope he has for his family’s future.

 

VICIOUS:
The Holiday Special

 

Freddie (Ian McKellen) and Stuart (Derek Jacobi) host a holiday soiree in their small central London flat. Ash (Iwan Rheon), their young upstairs neighbor, has volunteered to cook the meal, their feisty best friend Violet (Frances de la Tour) is up to her old tricks, and a wicked game of Truth or Dare brings up hidden truths – and surprises as well.

 

VICIOUS
Flatmates

 

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi star in this UK comedy series as partners Freddie and Stuart, who have lived together in a small central London flat for nearly 50 years. The duo are always cracking snide remarks aimed at the other’s age, appearance and flaws, but underneath their vicious, co-dependent fighting, they have a deep love for one another.

 

Flatmates
After Freddie and Stuart have a falling out, Stuart moves in with Ash and Violet moves in with Freddie. It doesn’t take long, however, before the new flatmates begin to drive each other crazy.

 

VICIOUS
Stag Do

 

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi star in this UK comedy series as partners Freddie and Stuart, who have lived together in a small central London flat for nearly 50 years. The duo are always cracking snide remarks aimed at the other’s age, appearance and flaws, but underneath their vicious, co-dependent fighting, they have a deep love for one another.

 

Stag Do
Finding themselves both single, Violet and Ash consider dating new people. Freddie, meanwhile, feels under pressure from Stuart to land a major new acting role.

 

VICIOUS
Ballroom

 

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi star in this UK comedy series as partners Freddie and Stuart, who have lived together in a small central London flat for nearly 50 years. The duo are always cracking snide remarks aimed at the other’s age, appearance and flaws, but underneath their vicious, co-dependent fighting, they have a deep love for one another.

 

VICIOUS
Sister

 

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi star in this UK comedy series as partners Freddie and Stuart, who have lived together in a small central London flat for nearly 50 years. The duo are always cracking snide remarks aimed at the other’s age, appearance and flaws, but underneath their vicious, co-dependent fighting, they have a deep love for one another.

 

Sister
Violet panics when her wealthy sister Lillian, whom she hasn’t seen in years, announces a visit.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Karen Radius

 

Growing up in Chicago, Karen Radius learned values from her working class parents, neither of whom attended high school. After passing the bar exam in Hawaii, Radius’ first job was with Legal Aid, serving some of the poorest people in Hawaii. As a Family Court judge, Karen Radius learned that juvenile girls who haven’t succeeded on regular probation needed a different type of juvenile justice system. So she created Girls Court. “Girls Court is all about…working on the relationships…within the family,” Radius explains. “(it’s) not just, ‘Did you comply with the court’s order and what the court told you to do’ … but let’s figure out your life and let’s come up with a life’s plan for you.”

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 1 at 4:00 pm.

 

Karen Radius Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

You know how bad things can be.

 

And I also know how good they can be. If we only focus on the things that have gone wrong, life gets to be pretty heavy and unhappy. And if you don’t see the potential in things, it’s just not right. I still get, when I’m out in the shopping center, I’ll get a girl who will come and say, Judge Radius! And I’ll say, Oh, how are you doing? What are you doing? And she’ll say, Oh, I’m graduating from Windward Community College next week. And so, we show up and give her a lei. Because those kinds of stories keep you going.

 

Judge Karen Radius, a resident of Windward Oahu, has spent her career seeking the potential in people facing troubled situations. Family Court Judge and the founding judge of Girls Court, Karen Radius, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Family Court is often regarded as a place of pain and anger, filled with divorces, child custody battles, families in crisis. Judge Karen Radius has spent decades there. She retired, but returned to serve on a part-time basis. The judge is no softy; she’s regarded as tough, but fair. In her juvenile cases, she tries to look past the pain, toward the potential good within the youth offenders who come before her. To help Hawaii’s troubled young people, Judge Radius in 2004 was the driving force behind Girls Court, an innovative program designed specifically for at-risk girls on Oahu. The judge and others in the field say that juvenile court is framed around boys, who tend to commit different offenses than girls, for different reasons. Judge Karen Radius knows firsthand about life struggles, having grown up on the south side of Chicago.

 

My mom is the oldest of ten. By the time she graduated from eighth grade in 1932, there were seven kids; the seventh child had just been born a couple of months before. So, her mom said to her, We just don’t have the money for you to go to high school, you need to find a job. My grandpa was a janitor, and finding a job, for him, depended on what manufacturing plants or what buildings were open, and what businesses could hire him. So, he was getting piecemeal work at about a dollar a day. So, my mother found a job being a maid and mother’s helper for a lawyer’s wife who had one son. So, after being the oldest girl of seven kids, that was a walk in the park, quite frankly.

 

But she had to be away from her family.

 

Absolutely. So, she earned a dollar a week, and she had Sundays off, so she’d come home on Sundays, bring her dollar, and her mother would give her a dime.

 

Tough times.

 

Yeah, yeah; absolutely.

 

People had to really pull together and sacrifice themselves.

 

Right; right. And so, the theory was that her younger sisters would all take a year off of high school, but it didn’t turn out that way. She stayed working at that job.

 

Never graduated from high school?

 

Nope; nope. She took a typing and a bookkeeping class at night school, but other than that, she didn’t go to high school.

 

Did she talk about that, her regrets at that?

 

Not so much her regrets. That’s the generation that doesn’t focus on themselves. But my sister and myself, there was no question; we were gonna get every ounce of education we could.

 

She was gonna do for you what she couldn’t do for herself.

 

That’s right; that’s right. My dad had been in the military, actually, here in Hawaii, and had gone back to Chicago and was a bus driver. And he saw her walk on his bus, and he said, That’s the most lovely pair of hands I’ve ever seen somebody putting fare in my farebox.

 

He said that to her?

 

To her. And she fell for it.

 

And the rest is history. Yeah; yeah.

 

Wow. And he stopped being a bus driver after that?

 

Right. When I was about three, he became a life insurance salesman, and did that ‘til he died.

 

So, he was a good salesman, charming?

 

Oh; yeah. He could tell a joke and a story. He was a schmoozer; yeah.

 

Judge Karen Radius became the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Her mother believed that Karen should receive the best education possible, even though money was scarce. She was accepted into George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and left the Midwest for the first time in her life.

 

I found George Washington. My mom said, Okay, we’ve got enough money for one semester. Go, see if you like it. We’ll do what we can; you gotta work. I went to GW ‘cause I thought I was interested in international affairs. I had read some books about Russia, and that was when the Cold War was big. And Russia seemed such a fascinating place. So, I went to study international affairs. But in my sophomore year, when you begin to think about what major you’re gonna declare, and the counselors are talking to you, I told them that that’s what I was interested in, and maybe the State Department or some kind of foreign job. And he says, Do you know what women do in the foreign service? I said, No, that’s what I’m here to learn. And he said, They stamp passports. And I was silly enough to believe him. So, I switched to political science.

 

So, that wasn’t true; he was just trying to … what was the point of that, of dissuading you?

 

I think that was probably true back then, so that would have been 1968; ’67, ’68.

 

So, he was trying to let you know that it may not be—

 

In reality, if I wasn’t willing to stamp passports for the rest of my life, which is probably what women mostly did back then, but things, as in all fields, has moved quite a bit.

 

So, you could have done it and broken those barriers.

 

Maybe. But I didn’t listen. I mean, I listened, but should have not listened. I kind of wonder what would have been, had it taken different turns. So, I went into political science. My junior and senior years, the Vietnam War booming, literally and figuratively. The protests were beginning. You know, being in campus only five blocks from the White House, there were tanks rolling down the street sometimes, and tear gas being thrown on the campus, which wasn’t fun. So, I decided, okay, I’m gonna work on The Hill, because that’s where change could come from, through senators and congressmen.

 

Who did you work for?

 

Senator Charles Mathias from Maryland; he was a progressive Republican at the time. People wrote to their senators and congressmen, and we’d get bags, and bags, and bags full of mail. And we had to respond to each piece. So, my job was, when there were over ten letters about a single topic, you’d write a form letter that sounded like you were talking directly to that person. And then, there was a machine that would … way pre-computers, but there was a machine that would match the address of the writer and the body of the letter. And then, it’d be signed, and you thought you got your own personal letter from the senator. Which he read the generalized …

 

M-hm.

 

So, he knew, and he knew how many. We kept count of X-number are in favor of this, and Y-number are against that. But it didn’t feel like democracy like I had studied it as political science, and I didn’t feel like we were making the kind of change that as a Baby Boomer, I thought we needed.

 

Oahu judge Karen Radius did not want to get channeled into a typing job, as were many women of the time. She wanted to be part of bringing change. So, she set her sights on a new career path.

 

One of the young male staffers who was an attorney said to me, Karen, just take the LSAT. Which is the law school admissions test. Don’t tell anybody you’re gonna take it, don’t send the scores any place. If you totally bomb out, you’ve wasted a day, fifty dollars to sign up for it, and two Number 2 pencils. So what? If you do well, send the scores some place. And so, I followed his advice, and here I am.

 

You hadn’t considered law school?

 

No. No.

 

That’s really open. So, you went and took the test, and did well. It’s a tough test.

 

Yup.

 

And what proportion of students in law schools were females then?

 

About three or four percent.

 

Is that right?

 

Yeah.

 

So, you were an oddity.

 

Right.

 

Did you feel like you had to prove yourself?

 

There were still professors who would do things like say, Can you please stand up as you give your answer, because I like to see the proportions of my opponent. And you walked in the library, and people closed the door as you entered. So, it wasn’t blatant. You didn’t get worse grades ‘cause you were a woman. You didn’t get worse classes.

 

It was a social atmosphere.

 

I had one young man say to me, You know, my friend didn’t get in; you’ve got his seat. But generally, people were nice, and I just stayed, and as more women came in, life went on.

 

After her second year at George Washington University Law School, Judge Karen Radius joined her college roommate Judy Sobin on a trip to Hawaii for the summer. She didn’t know it at the time, but Hawaii would become her permanent home.

 

I had come here to Hawaii between my second and third years of law school for a summer job, ‘cause there was no UH Law School at the time, and my college roommate had come here with her husband, and he was going to UH master’s in urban planning program. There was something about Hawaii. I just felt at home when I got off the plane.

 

What made you feel at home when you got off the plane? I mean, you hadn’t seen it yet.

 

I don’t know; I just did. I worked for Brook Hart’s firm the summer between second and third years of law school. They were doing a lot of law reform cases, they were doing a lot of criminal cases, but doing them very well, and lots of interesting cases. So, the work seemed exciting. I was meeting a lot of younger lawyers. The racial and ethnic makeup and background of so many different kinds of people. And the mountains and the ocean. You know, it just felt good.

 

A year later, after graduating from law school, Judge Karen Radius returned to the islands to take the Bar Exam.

 

I came here to take the Bar, ‘cause I had a federal job offer in North Carolina, and you could be licensed any place. So, I came here to take the Bar, hedging my bets that while I’m here studying for the Bar, I could still be looking for work here.

 

Because you didn’t want to go to the safe federal job?

 

I might own that horse farm in North Carolina now if I’d done that safe job. I don’t know. Oh; as opposed to my little plot.

 

But this was where you preferred to be.

 

Oh, yeah. I got offered a job two weeks before the Bar. Legal Aid called two weeks before.

 

How’d you feel about working for Legal Aid?

 

It was fine with me.

 

Yeah?

 

Yeah.

 

So, that means you served many of the poorest people in the area.

 

Absolutely.

 

Lots of family law.

 

No; actually, at that point, we were divided into divisions, and I was doing welfare law. So, I was doing your benefits were stopped, or the State wasn’t complying with the Federal laws about welfare benefits, food stamp benefits, Medicaid. So, I was doing more the keep your life and soul together …

 

So, that means you met people and saw individual stories of things that had happened which required government assistance.

 

Absolutely; yeah.

 

So, in two jobs, then, with the defense law firm, Brook Hart’s firm and with Legal Aid, you’re basically on the other side of the State; right?

 

I’m meeting the real people; yeah.

 

Yeah; yes.

 

Absolutely.

 

Underdogs, is what I would call it. How’d you feel about that? And it’s not big money jobs, either, necessarily.

 

Correct; right.

 

So, is that what you were looking for? You didn’t care about the money, and you wanted to help people who needed the help, who didn’t have much? Was that a goal, or just how that unfolded?

 

I didn’t become a lawyer to make money. I became a lawyer because … I didn’t want to type. And because I believe that some of the most resilient people I’ve met are people who have been, quote, underdogs. And they had potential, and good things to add to the state. So, doing that kind of law was perfectly fine with me.

 

You saw a lot of misery.

 

Yes; yeah. But the people who are in the midst of their problems don’t come in with, I’m in the midst of a lot of misery. They come in with, I’ve got this problem, and I gotta solve it because I’m getting evicted, because I can’t feed my kids, ‘cause … they weren’t drama queens. Let’s put it that way. So, they had resiliency, despite the fact that they lived in situations that were really challenging. When I left Legal Aid, you knew when it was time to leave. Because I used to keep graham crackers in my desk, because the people would come and they’d always bring their kids, and their kids were always hungry. So, I gave the kids coloring stuff and graham crackers while we talked about the case. And you knew it was time to leave when you just got a little bit tired shopping for graham crackers.

 

After five years, Judge Karen Radius left Legal Aid for private law practice. Along the way, she married future court administrator, Russell Tellio.

 

So, I worked for about nine months for Harriet Bouslog, who was a legend in her own right. And then, Norman Lau and Susan Arnett and I, all three of us at Legal Aid, decided we were gonna open our own firm. So, we did that January 2, 1980. And the three of us worked together for a while, and then Susan decided she wanted to do criminal stuff, and Norman and I didn’t. So, we became Radius and Lau, and stayed that way for thirteen years, until I got to be a judge.

 

Why did you become a judge?

 

This is gonna sound really silly. When my kids were born in 1985, I had twins. And Norman and I were doing a real varied civil law practice. So, you’d have to always be one step ahead of the clients, and learn a lot of different things all the time. So, having children, I knew that I needed to specialize in something, because trying to be such a generalist was … I needed time at home with the kids.

 

And you had two at once.

 

Yes. Yeah; yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, you have to sleep once in a while.

 

In 1993, Karen Radius was appointed as a judge to the First Circuit Family Court on Oahu. She presided over cases involving divorce, child custody, domestic abuse, and juvenile law. Much like her time at Legal Aid, she matter-of-factly looked for the up-side in people facing tough situations.

 

It’s a place you could be a peacemaker. You may not be able to stop the divorce, but if you can focus the parents on the children and on preserving the assets they have for the children’s best interest, and coming up with a visitation and custody plan that’s in the kids’ best interest, you can bring peace. Or if not total peace, at least ratchet things down. If you’re doing an adoption, that’s the fun part of family law. So, you leave the stress and the sweat in the waiting room and come into the courtroom, where there’s balloons and happy people, and pictures and congratulations. The other thing about being a Family Court judge is, if the judge can portray some kind of calm and can manage the courtroom in a way that it’s not just total havoc, the people can focus a little bit better about what they need to do, and what’s next, and how to bring some kind of resolution to the problems that are there. And sometimes, you can’t bring peaceful resolutions; you just make a decision when it happens, and they’re unhappy with you, and they’re unhappy with their life.

 

While working as a Family Court judge, Karen Radius began to notice an alarming trend within the juvenile cases. The number of girls who were arrested and brought to court was dramatically increasing. In 2004, she confronted the problem head-on by creating a new program called Girls Court.

 

In the days that I was a Legal Aid lawyer in Waianae in the 70s, there was hardly ever a girl brought to juvenile court. Girls weren’t arrested. It was all boys. And over time, the programs and the method of dealing with things were built for boys, ‘cause that’s who the system was. But as time went on, more and more girls started to be arrested. And the programs weren’t built for them, and juvenile court really wasn’t helping the girls at all. So, in about 2003, I was sitting at detention home, where you go every morning for a week in a row, every four weeks. And all of a sudden, there’s just so many girls appearing in front of me. And I’m thinking, Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw, ‘cause that’s based on who got arrested. You gotta see a judge within forty-eight hours of getting arrested. And so, I went back to the courthouse and I’m saying, you know, Boy, out of thirteen kids, ten were girls. Is it just me? Am I somehow a girl magnet? What is this? And they said, No, no, no, we still have to do some research. And at that point, forty-two percent of the arrests in Honolulu were girls. Nationally, it was about between twenty and twenty-five percent, but Honolulu was forty-two percent.

 

I wonder why?

 

We arrest a lot for runaway, and we have a lot of runaway girls. And girls tend to act out not so much against other people, although there are some assaults on unrelated people, et cetera. But there’s a lot of act out against the boyfriend, act out against the mother. And then, drugs are a problem. Act out against themselves, by taking or possessing, or dealing drugs. So, I talked to Judge Wong, who was then the lead judge of Family Court, the senior judge, and she was doing some rearrangement of people’s caseloads, and so, she wanted to move some of my cases. She says, I know you’re gonna be mad. I said, No, I’m not gonna be mad if you let me do Girls Court. She said, What’s that? And I said, I don’t know, but we gotta do something. And she said, Okay.

 

So, you were convinced you couldn’t fix it by transforming juvenile court.

 

Well, it’s still a part of juvenile court. It’s a transformation of—not every girl who gets arrested in Honolulu goes to Girls Court. Girls Court is the girls who aren’t succeeding on regular probation. So anyway, we looked at what’s going on in the girls’ life, not just what she did. ‘Cause often, a sentence or a disposition is based on, You did X-crime, X-thing, and therefore, you must do the following community service, you must do the following anger management, et cetera. But what else is there going on in her life that gets her in the situation that make it that she’s acting out like this?

 

And she’s a revolving door.

 

And she’s a revolving door. You know, she’s not going to school for long periods of time. The old days, you would put her in detention home for two weeks and say, Okay, write an essay on why education is important to you. She didn’t know. And she’d write the essay, and she’d be scared for a while, and she’d go to school for maybe two, three weeks, and then the whole thing would start again. And the next run would happen or the next truancy would happen; back and forth. So, we weren’t looking at the underlying causes. So, Girls Court is all about getting, you know, the whole family working on the relationships within the family. And the probation officers are still probation officers, but they’re also not just, Did you comply with the court’s order and what the court told you to do, but let’s figure out your life and let’s come up with a life’s plan for you.

 

In 2010, Judge Karen Radius retired as a fulltime judge to help take care of her aging mother and her mother-in-law. At the time of our conversation in 2015, she’d returned to work as a per diem or part-time Family Court judge.

 

Let’s say the top three things you’ve done in your life that you really feel proud of.

 

My kids, number one. And watching them grow and develop, and lead their lives, and make the choices they make, one way or the other. Girls Court … jeez.

 

Well, top two is good.

 

We narrowed it down to two.

 

I don’t know.

 

I’m just thinking from a balance of power situation. You know, this is not the old model of husband and wife, where the wife is the judge. Was that hard to handle sometimes?

 

Not for me. No. We didn’t bring our work home. And those times that I would say something that I wasn’t happy about something, Russ would say, Slavery ended in the 1860s, if you don’t like the job, find another one. So, okay, I’m not gonna complain at home.

 

And you have twins.

 

Right.

 

Tell us a little bit about them, about how they were influenced by two parents working in the law.

 

My son’s a lawyer, although he has a sticker on his bike and it said, Born to fish, forced to work. So, in a perfect world, he might want to fish. But no; he’s a lawyer, he’s a good lawyer. My daughter, when she was probably about five or six, I said to her, You know, are you going to work when you get married and have children? Because being old school, I still felt a little bit of guilt about, I’m working. And she says, Of course, I’m gonna work. But I’m not gonna be a lawyer; that’s boring. So, at six, she already decided it’s boring. So, she’s a scientist; she’s a biomedical engineer, and smarter than me.

 

Did you think of your kids as you were in court, you know, passing judgments?

 

Yeah; I thought about my kids. Because of confidentiality of the cases, I couldn’t talk about the cases to the kids. But I’ve said things sometimes to the kids, and my son when he was little, used to say, Mom, you always know that all, and you’re all so worried about evil stuff. You know, you just don’t know the real world.

 

And I said, Oh, Andrew, your father and I have worked so hard so that you don’t know about the real world.

 

Founding Judge Karen Radius’ concept of Girls Court has now spread to several states on the continent. At the time of our conversation in the summer of 2015, she continues to be an advocate for at-risk youth inside and outside the courtroom. Judge Radius volunteers for several nonprofits, and is the president of Surfrider Spirit Sessions, a nonprofit that uses the lessons of surfing to help transform the lives of at-risk youth. Mahalo to Judge Karen Radius of Kailua, Windward Oahu for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

What did your mother say to you after she saw you become a judge?

 

She wished I’d been a beautician, ‘cause I’d be home more.

 

Truly?

 

Yes; yeah, seriously.  When I first went off to college, she said, Do this for you and for me. And I was, quite frankly, a little bit … It’s for me; what you do mean for you? But having a daughter now myself, I understand.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Gerri Hayes

 

For businesswoman Gerri Hayes, being told that “you can’t do it” just makes her more determined to succeed. Gerri shares her survival story as a single mother of two young children who moved to Hawaii to take a human-services job that didn’t materialize. She founded a business, Office Pavilion Hawaii, providing furniture to workplaces. It was hailed by Pacific Business News as 2011’s top female-owned business in the Islands, with revenues that year of $37 million.

 

Gerri Hayes Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

There’s always another way. I just find adversity … I’m there to learn something. And I have failed at a number of things. And if you don’t get the learning, then it was a real wasted exercise to have gone through that much pain.

 

From raising two daughters on her own, to starting and running a very successful business, Gerri Hayes has never backed down from a challenge. Gerri Hayes, CEO of the furniture company Office Pavilion, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wicox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. How does one overcome adversity? The toughest situations can motivate some people to exceed what they thought to be their own limitations. As a young, unemployed single parent of two daughters, Gerri Hayes faced adversity. With great tenacity, she overcame her tough situation and many other challenges that followed. She’s the founder and CEO of Office Pavilion, one of the most successful woman-owned businesses in Hawaii. Life for Gerri Hayes began in a small New England town.

 

Did you move around a lot growing up?

 

No, I did not. I was born and raised in Western Massachusetts, in a very small town, Orange. Stayed in the same house ‘til I left home at seventeen, and did not have any … it was a Peyton Place. [CHUCKLE]

 

It was a Peyton Place?

 

You know, I remember when that came out, the book, I said, Sounds like our town. You know, they’re very small, very insular.

 

Did you have a sense of what you would be and do when you grew up?

 

I only had one dream, and it was to get out of Orange. [CHUCKLE]

 

Is that right? Why?

 

It was so provincial. I used to joke, and my mother even said; she said, You always said, I must have been switched in the crib, I don’t belong here. [CHUCKLE] It was one of those places, I just didn’t feel like I belonged. And then, I had a twin brother and a younger sister, and older sister, and everyone’s still there. No one ever leaves this place.

 

So, you’re not in step with your twin brother as far as childhood?

 

No. It was just like I said. I just always felt like I had only one dream, and it was to get out of Orange and go somewhere else. I graduated, actually, right after I turned seventeen. And I got a job and moved to Worchester, which is a city south of us, and knew I was out. [CHUCKLE]

 

And was it better for you in another town?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

In the same area?

 

Yeah. It was just better to be in the city. I think I just needed to get out and get into a less provincial environment, and with more exposure to more things. And it was a great thing to do, to get out of Orange. [CHUCKLE]

 

Where did life take you from this new city?

 

Well, actually, here’s the good news and bad news. That’s when I found I was pregnant; I was seventeen.

 

Soon after you left Orange?

 

Right after I left home and had settled in with three girlfriends into an apartment in Worchester, Massachusetts, had the shock and surprise. They forgot that part about family planning; they didn’t teach us. [CHUCKLE]

 

And who was the father?

 

He’d been the guy I dated all through high school, and he had gone into the Navy. And of course, then there was the question of what do I do, and we ended up getting married. Which was fine.

 

It didn’t work out?

 

Of course not. I think children should never get children or have children. [CHUCKLE] Anyways. So, anyway, so I was in Charleston, South Carolina. We got married in Charleston, South Carolina. He was in the Navy. You know, it was the Vietnam War and he got drafted, so he was in Charleston, South Carolina, and that’s where my first daughter was born. And then, I went to San Diego; my second daughter Leanne was born in Balboa Naval. And then, about two years later, it just wasn’t working. You know, those marriages don’t. So I became a single parent. But then, we got divorced and I moved back to Orange.

 

To have family childcare?

 

To try to figure out what I was going to do. Yes; my mother helped, and that’s when I decided that I had to figure out what I was really gonna do with this life. And so, that’s when I went back to school and became a surgical tech.

 

As a single parent with no support from her ex-husband, Gerri Hayes needed to learn to survive and provide. She began training and working as a surgical technician, prepping hospital operating rooms for surgeries.

 

So, liked your job.

 

I did like my job, and found it fascinating. And it gave me a real foundation. Obviously, part of even getting that training is understanding all the medical terminology and what went on in hospitals, and how it worked. Anyways, but then there was nowhere to go. You know, you worked long hours. I’d have to be in the OR by six and take call almost every other night. So, I decided to move on, and that’s when I met this woman. I was very active politically. It was the 60s. [CHUCKLE] So, there I was. Very much a feminist, got into the anti-war movement. And I was actually at a League of Women Voters meeting where they were talking about, you know, abortion reform, and ended up meeting my mentor. She was one of the women. And that’s who I went to work for, and became her executive assistant at this family planning program, and then eventually became the director.

 

So, that’s a good job, right, director of family planning?

 

Yes. And actually, what happened was, I felt they were going at it wrong, which that’s usually how I do things. I said, Well, you’re doing this all wrong. Why would you put these clinics in a hospital?

 

I can understand why you’re the boss of a business now. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] I am a little bossy. [CHUCKLE] But I said, You’re doing this wrong. You’re trying to attract these populations who are terrified of going into hospitals. And so, that’s how I co-authored an article on setting up non-hospital-based family planning clinics.   The first ones in New England, actually, and then I got put into Planned Parenthood International, and that’s how I got invited to Hawaii. They wanted me to consult, because they were having the same problem.

 

How controversial were family planning clinics back then?

 

Oh; very. Very.

 

I mean, there had been bombings and you know, violence associated with family planning.

 

Family planning was—yeah. And so, that was the other thing; putting it down on a main street and in a rough neighborhoods anywhere so that women would have access without having—right? Because back then, even, if they were married, had to have the husband’s permission to go. So, it was pretty radical to set up non-hospital-based family clinics.

 

That’s what you did?

 

Yeah. Hired my own doctors and nurses, and set up this thing, and did peer counseling, and went out and spoke to Head Start groups. My belief was, obviously, having had the experience, I said, If you could stop first birth order with young women, you give them a chance to go on and really create their lives.

 

Did you ever feel in peril, unsafe?

 

Only once. [CHUCKLE] I got thrown down the stairs. Someone came in late at night, and they were … but mostly no.

 

So, philosophically, they decided they would take a shot.

 

Yeah. And I’m also very feisty, so you can imagine I wasn’t someone who was intimidated.

 

Where did that come from? The feistiness; and going against the grain.

 

I was the black sheep in my family, and I was the girl. [CHUCKLE]   My mother said, If you could have only learned to manage your mouth. But my father was so domineering, and I just wouldn’t take it. And so, I have to tell you, I got the belt more times that most people should ever get one.

 

And you still mouthed off?

 

And I would just say, Fine, let’s go. Because I felt like I had to say my peace.

 

And you took the blows.

 

I took the beating. I said, You know, you will not silence me. [CHUCKLE]

 

So, you never had regrets about speaking out?

 

Oh, no.

 

As a result of Gerri Hayes’ article about her non-hospital-based clinics, she was invited to Hawaii to meet with Planned Parenthood. Little did she know that her trip to Hawaii would alter the direction of her life.

 

So, here you were, running a family planning clinic, and feeling that you were working for a good cause.

 

Yeah.

 

And then?

 

And then I published that article, and got invited to come to Hawaii, which I had never had any interest in. And came here, and absolutely went ass over tea kettle. Thought it was the most fabulous place on Earth.

 

Why? What was it, exactly? I mean, besides the surf and the sun.

 

No, no; it wasn’t even the physi—it was the … remember, I had two daughters, and I was a single parent. And I remembered every time they—and I had asked not to stay in hotels. I said, I’d like to stay with the directors or with a staff member. ‘Cause I said, I want them to experience the people of Hawaii. So, I ended up having this wonderful experiences. In Maui, I’ll never forget, they were having a big pau hana, and then, they brought all the children. And she said, You’d never not invite the keiki. And I looked at her, and I said, Oh, my god, in Boston, you don’t understand, they’ll call me and say, Gerri, if you can find a babysitter, we’d love you come to the party. And I would always go. It was just very—your roles were really separate. And here, I realized the appreciation of the fact that you had children was really high, and and the inclusiveness. You know, so it was sort of like, hmm, this is a whole new way to look at it. So, I went back. That was June, thirty-nine years ago. And I thought about it, and then Judy said she was gonna quit her job over in Maui, and she said, Why don’t you take over Planned Parenthood Maui? So, I gave my notice, sold everything I owned, and moved here on February 1st, thirty-eight years ago.

 

And?

 

And got here. [CHUCKLE] And just as I was coming in December, she sent me a note and said, I can’t afford to quit, we started building a house on Hana Highway. And I said, You know what, I’ve sold everything, I’ve given my notice, I’m coming anyway, I’ll figure it out.

 

That seems so confident. Did you feel confident?

 

I did; I did. I just knew I was supposed to not be back there anymore. So I moved here, and I didn’t have a job, but I had an apartment. And I figured it out. [CHUCKLE]

 

What did you figure out? The door was closed, you were on Maui.

 

I started applying for jobs, and mostly social service, like I said, so I applied for the American Cancer Society job in Kauai, I interviewed for [SIGH] all kinds of things. And then, I kept seeing how little they paid, which was kinda shocking. It still is shocking; right? The lack of value we place on social services.

 

Social services.

 

And I went, Oh, my goodness, I don’t think I can do this. Well, then I saw these other ads. ‘Cause you know, you’re look at all ads. And then, I was just looking for a medical surgical salesperson to sell high level open heart equipment, packs and gowns. And so, I was like, Sounds like me. [CHUCKLE]

 

Had you sold before?

 

I’d never sold a thing in my life. I remember saying, If you can use it, you could sell it. So, I went in and interviewed, and he didn’t hire me right away, ‘cause he said, you know, he had this other nurse that he hired. And then, he called me back, and he said, Come in. And so, I absolutely found my calling.

 

Gerri Hayes relied on her background as a surgical technician to make the transition into medical sales. Taking the time to learn the subtle ways of island culture, and to sit and listen to her new customers was important to her success.

 

I came from Boston, and as you can tell, New Englanders, we’re rough, we’re aggressive. I obviously had a wicked accent then. Now, I only slip occasionally in “park cars” [BOSTON ACCENT]. But back then, I remember coming in, and then I went into every one of my operating room nurses and sat down, and I just said, I need you to tell me what it would be that I could do for you, that would make it important for you to buy from me and work with me. And they all said the same thing. Show up on time, keep your word, follow up, and tell the truth. I was like, That’s it? [CHUCKLE]

 

They must have liked that you asked them, too, one-on-one.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Like they mattered.

 

They said, No one’s ever. They said, Gerri, number one, this is Hawaii. People think they’re on time if they’re three hours late, and it’s annoying because we’re busy, we’re running an OR. And so I was like, Oh! So, I did; I just wrote it all down. And I remembered years later, I still have this whole group. Most of them are retired now, but all these directors of OR, they just said, You were the best. And they said, The other thing is because you’d used it, you knew how to do it, we could call you in, you could scrub in and help show everybody how to use the new equipment. And then we’d sit in the nurses’ lounge. You know, it was like it was very easy. And then I learned all the rest, so I had to sell operating room, but then I also had to sell other kinds of medical supplies.

 

Working fulltime as a single mother with no family support was a struggle for Gerri Hayes. She credits her Hawaii friends and neighbors for helping to raise her two daughters.

 

Must be very hard to raise children without a grandma. You know, people have family and really use them here to help them with their kids.

 

Yeah. That was the hardest.

 

How did you manage?

 

That was the hardest. I had … [SIGH] I don’t know. [CHUCKLE] I don’t know how I did it. Don’t know how I did it. Someone said, How did you do it? I said, You just do what you do. I had great neighbors, I will say. I lived on a sweet little street, Mikiola Drive, and all the neighbors, they all watched out for me. They just thought I was—right? I mean, it was really sweet. It was like, Eh, Mama, watch the kids, you know, ‘til you get home. So, I was very lucky. That’s again, that culture that knew and respected how hard I worked. And so, I had Walter and Harry across the street, and I mean, those kids couldn’t have done a think without them getting busted by them.

 

A few years into her new sales career, Gerri Hayes received an opportunity that would propel her from salesperson to running a sales operation.

 

Okay; so I did med surg sales, then I got a call from this man who owned a business and had a division here in Hawaii, Medical Business Interiors in Seattle. And he said, I heard you’re the best salesperson in Hawaii. And I said, Well, it’s true. [CHUCKLE] A little hutzpah. And he said, I’m looking for someone to run my territory over there.

 

And it’s business interiors.

 

Medical business interiors.

 

Business interiors. Okay.

 

This is hilarious. So, he flies over on a Sunday, and I met him at the Top of the Ilikai. After three mai tai’s, he—I should have asked for more; I left too much money on the table. [CHUCKLE] But it was like, he hired me. And so, I took over, and it was basically doing interiors for hospitals.

 

You mean, providing furniture for hospitals?

 

Providing furniture, but also having to do, you know, go out and meet with architects and designers, and end users. And the part I could do, ‘cause I understood material distributions, I could do some of this, but the rest of it was … and I learned it. Again, one of those, I don’t know where you get that piece that just says, You know what, I can figure this out. And I did.

 

Was it hard to figure out, or I mean, does it come easily?

 

It came pretty quick. But again, I have always been lucky. Had somebody, an installer. And he said, Kerry, what am I gonna do? I said, This architect’s calling me, and he wants to show me these plans. He said, I’m going with you, girlfriend. He said, Just keep asking him questions, and when he asks you what you think, say, You know, I need to think about that, and I’ll get back to you. So, we get in there. Guy rolls out the plans. I didn’t know electrical, plumbing. And I would just sit there and I’d tell him, So what’s your concept, what are you trying to accomplish? And I got Kerry sitting there, and he’s going, Sir, I don’t think that’s gonna work ‘cause the way doors are laid out. And so, he was great, ‘cause he actually knew how to do this. And he took me aside and he taught me how to read a blueprint, and he taught me all the … and so, I was very lucky. And we worked as a team.

 

So, this time, you were not just selling; you were running a business.

 

Right.

 

A division of a business.

 

Yes. So, I had to hire, and I did. I had an interior designer, and I had a logistics person to handle shipping and do all those things. But I did what I did well, and I was actually very good at knowing what I was good at, and delegating. So, I let the interior designer take over, and then I would let the gal who did the order entry, and so I think that’s why it worked. Because I also didn’t feel like I had to do it all. The ability to know what you’re good at, and then let those who do what they’re good at.

 

Did you do the hiring?

 

Uh, yes.

 

Were you good at reading people? And you’re still hiring, so I should ask you, Are you good at reading people?

 

Yeah; I’m actually pretty good at it.

 

Here you are working, doing medical business interiors. And things went along quite well, until they went very badly. What happened?

 

I absolutely loved working for MBI, and learned the whole industry while I worked for Hank. And one of the biggest jobs, and it was so exciting to win it, was the HMSA was building a new state of the art building over on Keeaumoku Street. And everybody kept saying, Gerri, there is no way they’re gonna buy furniture. I said, There is no way they’re not. How could they have you build a state of the art building, and then move that crap? I said, I have been in their offices. And he said, There’s no way the board will approve it. I said, I’m going to figure a way, I said, ‘cause I know two things. They need an emotional coat hook to hang that decision on, and I’m gonna find it, because, I said, it’s how you solve the idea.

 

Gerri Hayes came up with an innovative sales pitch, or an emotional coat hook as she calls it, to refurnish all of her client’s new offices. But what should have been the sale of her career had an unforeseen outcome.

 

The point would be, why would you have a beautiful new facility, and move all your people into it, and then move all this old furniture, when you could … I said, And I would handle the whole disposal, the sale of it, and everything, and give you a credit toward the purchase of new furniture. I said, I think it’s at least worth—I’ll write you a proposal to give the board. Fine. And he took it, and of course, they jumped on it with both feet. And it was amazing.

 

And it was a great sell for you.

 

It was the emotional coat hook, and it ended up being like a six million dollar sale. Which thirty years ago, was a lot of money. Eight floors, everything, front door to back. Everything. So, the good news and bad news was, after the job was done, that’s when I found out that my boss had put all of these expenses against the job, and there was eighty-seven thousand dollars in commission that he wasn’t gonna pay me. And my girlfriend, because she worked in accounting, said I had to sit in the meetings with these three men going, No woman should ever make that much money, and ra-ra-ra-ra-ra.

 

Did you get the money?

 

Well, the attorneys all get money. Don’t you know that? So, I ended up with about thirty-seven thousand, which is still okay. It was enough for me to say, I can go do my own thing now.

 

Gerri Hayes says that experience of being shut out of an eighty-seven thousand dollar sales commission left her unwilling to work for somebody else. She decided to start her own business.

 

You know, I went to a Pacific Business News event, and I heard that the top woman-owned business in Hawaii was called Office Pavilion. And I thought, Let’s see, what would make the most money? You know, what is that? You know, what would Office Pavilion do?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

It’s just incredible to me that, you know, you’re a contract furniture provider.

 

And that’s what people don’t understand. Every time you go to the airport and you sit in that black and silver seating, that is Eames Tandem Sling Seating that we have done since 1976 out at that airport. If you go into a hospital, if you go into rehab, all that renovation at rehab we just did, it’s all done in this fabulous new Compass program that we do. So, I do hospitals, I do healthcare, we did Case Middle School, Iolani, UH IT that just opened, the Cancer Research Center. See, I just think of all the different pieces to this business. It isn’t just furniture. You know, I’ve done all the special operations. I have a lot of fun with special ops guys.

 

And you have to know how people work in order to serve them in this business.

 

Yes.

 

You have to know a lot about them and their business.

 

Yeah. And how it’s changing for them. Part of the biggest challenge right now is really helping them get in front of the curve of everything that’s changing. Healthcare is just … everybody’s on there around this one. Right? And I mean, there’s just so many things. Part of it is, that’s why you educate yourself and you try to become a partner and a proactive solution provider, because they’re all facing—I mean, it’s becoming very competitive.

 

In 2011, and again in 2012, Office Pavilion was named the number one woman-owned business in Hawaii by Pacific Business News. One of those years, company revenues reached thirty-seven million dollars. Over time, Gerri Hayes’ business has expanded beyond Hawaii, to the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Guam. As the driving force behind the company that she founded, Gerri admits it’s been difficult for her to loosen the reins for the next generation of the family company.

 

You could be retiring, if you wanted to.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You could be retiring yesterday.

 

I have started my exit strategy. I have two daughters, Wendy and Leanne and my son-in-law Bruce in the business, and they’ve been there a long time. But it’s so different, you know. I think that is the next thing. How do they learn, how do you teach and mentor people into that entrepreneurial piece, as opposed to the maintenance piece of keeping a business just running. And that is probably the challenge I’ve got right now is, they’re getting there, I’m having to shut up and back off. I think that is hardest, because sometimes we’re doing strategic business, and I can type that up and have it out tomorrow. [CHUCKLE] And I said, But then, it wouldn’t be their plan, and it isn’t allowing them to … it’s not forcing them to think the issues through.

 

Is it important for you that your business live on after you?

 

Yeah. That’s probably the biggest struggle I’m having right now. I really want my kids to see it as a legacy business that creates all kinds of things, creates jobs. We have a staff meeting Friday, the first one of the year. And look it, you have forty-two people. Now, multiply that times all the people they support, and you realize the power when you create jobs, and you create a business. It’s not about you. And I want them to know that my grandsons … I mean, I honestly look at my youngest; he was sitting here in the chair. He’s the salesman in the group. And I said, What a wonderful thing it would be to have a third generation come and sit in that chair. And I said, Your job is to take it from thirty million to a hundred and fifty million, and maybe open up Australia. I said, You know, I’ve done what I set out to do, and I’d love to see you grow it, and I’d love to see … he said, I’m going to Harvard, Grandma, and then I’m coming back and taking the chair. [CHUCKLE] And I said, But just to know. I said, Do you know what a gift a business like this is? I said, it creates a life for you, you create livelihoods for others, you get to do good in the world, you get to have all the fun and travel. I mean, I have traveled the world. My true love, besides reading, is traveling. So yeah, I want to see it live on. [CHUCKLE]

 

Gerri Hayes says that she has women business mentors, and she believes Hawaii is a supportive and encouraging environment for entrepreneurial women. She’s certainly a testament to that. Mahalo to Gerri Hayes for sharing her story with us. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Okay; I’ve had three people say, I don’t know why you haven’t written a book. And I’m like, What would I write? And I say, Well, if I ever wrote a book, it would be called, And It Ain’t About Furniture. ‘Cause it’s about your life, and how all these things, and all the serendipity, and all the hilarious stories. Leanne said, You can’t tell these stories, Mom, when you’re with Leslie. [CHUCKLE]

 

[END]

 

POV
Don’t Tell Anyone

 

Meet immigrant activist Angy Rivera, the country’s only advice columnist for undocumented youth. In a community where silence is often seen as necessary for survival, she steps out of the shadows to share her own parallel experiences of being undocumented and sexually abused.

 

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