Hundreds of Maui residents paid their last respects to noted Maui Attorney B. Martin Luna at services held at the Ala Lani United Methodist Church on Saturday, Jan. 26. By 4 p.m., the line was at least two city blocks long and just kept growing as people from all walks of life filed in one-by one. Those who stayed for the service packed the pews for a celebration of his life.
Long considered one of Maui's top real estate lawyers, with a career that spanned over 40 years, the Kaua'i-born attorney began practicing on the Valley Isle in the late 1960s. He quickly rose to prominence in legal and political circles. Luna was known as the go-to guy for almost any tricky, complicated or sensitive business deal involving real estate or land development.
He was also active in the Democratic Party. Luna was among the first Hawai'i-born Filipinos to rise to prominence and was long employed in the Wailuku office of Carlsmith Ball, one of the state's leading law firms.
“A good friend to so many… so many lives he touched.”
But it was not the astute legal professional or the savvy political strategist who brought out the crowd. People remembered him as a man who always had a smile, a joke, came to choir every Thursday and liked to sing. They remember him as a man who loved and enjoyed his family as he watched them grow.
At the beginning of the service, his grandchildren walked down the center aisle to light the candles in the church. As they left the crowded silent room, a very young voice rang out with a loud and enthusiastic "Happy Birthday!"
Indeed, the mood was upbeat with a touch of humor from beginning to end. The song that people hummed as they walked out was the soundtrack to the slideshow of his life: "Forever Young."
Grant Chun, once a young attorney, now an executive with Alexander & Baldwin, remembered driving to Hana years ago with him while Martin lead-footed the gas, puffing a big, smelly cigar. It was a long ride in a closed car over the twisty road. When they arrived, Chun got out and immediately threw up on the client's lawn.
"You're going home by plane," he remembered Luna telling him."
Larry Ing, a good friend and fellow lawyer, told stories about the family and their happy times together. His voice cracked as he paid tribute to Luna as "a good friend to so many so many lives he touched."
His warm heart was the first thing that Tom Vanwinkle, former Carlsmith Ball chairman, recalled. Luna, he said, had been with the firm for 27 years, and unlike some other lawyers he wouldn't name (but many of whom he suggested might in the room), "Martin was not a self-promoter."
Luna, he said, was, "caring, friendly; a good listener." He was a man who "worked hard--very hard--harder than most people can imagine for his clients."
Vanwinkle characterized him as "persistent and persuasive smart, a man who knew what he was doing I know I will always think of him kidding with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, and I will smile back."
Rev. Jaeman Lim of Ala Lani remembered him as a member of the congregation who worked long and hard for the benefit of the church. Luna, he said, faithfully attended choir practice and sometimes even brought his own fine wine to drink while he did it.
According to his son, Neal, his father sang not just at church but in the shower, too. He said his dad became better acquainted with his mom by telling her that Niagara Falls was close to San Antonio and he'd be happy to drive her there--as it was right on his way.
"He woke us up early and made us get up," the young man remembered. He quoted his father: "Just because my eyes are closed doesn't mean I'm not listening."
Neal also mentioned that his dad was a man who saved dental floss and observed, to the laughter of the crowd, "You can take the boy out of the plantation, but you can't take the plantation out of the boy." He didn't seek political office at "mom's request."
"In the end, we got him home from Houston and all five of us were in the same room. We were together when he passed. To me, that's everything--that's a good life."
Others who spoke mentioned his humor, warmth, diligence and devotion to a wide variety of civic causes that benefited the community.
His law firm posted a personal tribute and brief biography its Website:
"It is with great sadness that the Carlsmith Ball law firm announces the passing of B. Martin Luna, administrative partner in its Maui office."
"Martin was one of the finest partners of the firm, who demonstrated on a daily basis, hard work and total dedication to the firm's clients," said Karl Kobayashi, chairman.
Luna was born in 1938 in Waimea, Kaua'i, and attended Waimea High School. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Emory University, and his law degree from George Washington University National Law Center, cum laude.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Luna began practicing law in 1968. He joined Carlsmith Ball in 1985 after managing his own law firm, Ueoka and Luna, on Maui for several years. Luna was a highly regarded real estate and land use attorney on Maui for over 40 years, consistently listed in Best Lawyers of America, Hawai'i Super Lawyers and Martindale Hubbell as one of the top lawyers in the state.
He was active in many organizations and local Maui community charities, including Hawai'i Access to Justice (commissioner), Hawai'i State Bar Association (president 1983), Judicial Selection Commission, State of Hawai'i (chair 1997- 1999), Phi Delta Phi, Pi Sigma Alpha and Omicron Delta Kappa.
Luna is survived by wife, Kay; sons Neal and Dane; daughter Kari Nunokawa; sister Lily Hummel; and six grandchildren.
A thank you from the family said they will donate all monetary gifts to the Ala Lani United Methodist Church in his memory.
Their message also said: "Your presence here honors the gift he so freely and fervently gave to his family, friends, faith and community: himself He showed up with smile and a joke or a song, ready to help others succeed."