November 29th, 2008 ·
Bill Bonk, a former Hawaii Democratic official who helped found the state’s Green Party, died this week, West Hawaii Today reports. Bonk “was changed by his World War II combat experiences in the Philippines and New
Guinea, plus an extended stay in Japan during the American occupation” and became a peace activist and progressive leader in the state.
Big Island archaeologist, political leader Bill Bonk dies
By Special To West Hawaii Today
Saturday, November 29, 2008 7:10 AM HST
Bill Bonk’s experiences in a devastating war would guide the rest of a life spent advocating the humanities and peace movements.
The noted archaeologist, activist and Green Party of Hawaii leader died
Nov. 25 after a five-year battle with cancer. He was born in College Point, N.Y.
Bonk, whose archaeological work at South Point rewrote the popular beliefs of Polynesian immigration to Hawaii, joined the Army in 1941 and was changed by his World War II combat experiences in the Philippines and New Guinea, plus an extended stay in Japan during the American occupation.
“For the next 67 years he struggled, personally and publicly, to reconcile his deep patriotism with his experience of war and its consequences,” according to a statement from the family.
Through the GI Bill, he studied human culture at the New School for Social Research, adopting the university’s mission of pursuing peace, scientific understanding and social justice through dedication to critical thinking, interdisciplinary research and worldly civic engagement.
When the Korean War broke out, Bonk filed as a conscientious objector, refusing to participate in war again. He also participated in the protests to stop the Vietnam War.
While attending the New School, Bill met Fumie Matsuoka and they were married at the New York Buddhist Hongwanji.
Bonk received his degree in anthropology from the University of Hawaii and worked with renowned Bishop Museum anthropologists Kenneth Emory and Yoshi Sinoto. His studies at South Point proved humans arrived in Hawaii hundreds of years earlier than previously thought. He created detailed maps of Big Island archaeological sites and his association with Edith Kanakaole was instrumental in establishing the Hawaiian Studies Program.
An official with the Democratic Party, Bonk worked to keep it true to its progressive ideals. He challenged the status quo and championed progressive issues ranging from Native Hawaiian rights, historical
preservation and organizing unions.
In 1991, Bonk and his family began a 10-year struggle to revitalize progressive ideals in electoral politics on the Big Island. Daughter, Keiko, helped co-found the Hawaii Green Party. Bonk later resigned his
position as cultural adviser to Gov. John D. Waihee III, and worked for his daughter in her successful elections to the Hawaii County Council.
In the last years of Bill’s life, he increasingly dedicated his time to his Buddhist studies. He traveled to Bhutan in 2001 and 2003 to learn how the country was applying the ancient teachings of Buddhism to the
challenges of the modern world. In 2004, he returned to Japan and became a Shin Buddhist priest.
Friends may call at 11 a.m. Dec. 6 for a noon service at Honokaa Hongwanji Mission (775-7232). In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the Hawaii People’s Fund, 949 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 100,
Honolulu, HI 96814, for the William Bonk Peace Scholarship Fund.
Bonk is survived by wife, Fumie; sons, Seizen and Ken; daughter, Keiko; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
November 30, 2008