Aformer Marine who spent his retirement preserving the history of Camp Tarawa in Waimea has died.
James Browne, 82, was born in South Gate, Calif., and spent his later years in Waikoloa. He helped found the Camp Tarawa Detachment in 2006 and devoted the group to collecting stories, artifacts and information about the Marines who trained at the Waimea camp during World War II.
Kathy Painton’s father was stationed at Camp Tarawa. He died during World War II, while fighting in the Pacific. She met Browne in 2006, when she attended the detachment’s second meeting.
“He’s been like a big brother to me,” Painton said Wednesday.
Like real siblings, Painton and Browne “butted heads” a few times, especially about whether the museum Browne and other detachment members wanted to create to honor the camp should be located in Waikoloa — his choice — or Waimea — her choice.
“We would always reach agreement in the end,” Painton said, adding Browne eventually handed over more of those duties to her and conceded Waimea was a suitable location for the museum.
Browne, who served as a Marine in the Korean War, helped found the Boots on the Ground tours, which took visitors to Camp Tarawa sites, Painton said. Browne was also a member of the Kona Elks Club, Marine Corps League and the Korean War Veterans Association.
Pete Hoffmann, himself a veteran, said Browne will be missed in veterans circles.
“He’s the type of veteran most veterans groups long to have as an articulate and dedicated member of their group,” Hoffmann said. “He’s willing to try to press as hard as he can for solutions and answers.”
Browne’s widow, Alice, said he joined the county’s Fire Commission with expectations of being more involved with the Fire Department. Browne was a firefighter in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“He thought it was going to be more hands on than it was,” she said, adding her husband went ahead and visited local fire stations and got a few things fixed and updated for the firefighters there.
The couple attended high school together, then reconnected 50 years later at an alumni event, Alice Browne said. He was a football star, so she remembered him. But she was two years younger and he didn’t remember her, she said. They married 10 years ago, and she moved to Hawaii to be with him.
“We felt like teenagers,” she said. “It was wonderful.”
Browne helped other high school alumni come together, Alice Browne said. He founded madcatsalumni.org, a site for graduates of Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School in California.
Alice Browne said her husband suffered from circulation issues and was hospitalized about a week before his death May 31. During that hospitalization, doctors found an advanced stage of cancer.
A memorial service is scheduled for noon Friday at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in Kona.
In addition to his wife, Browne is survived by a son, James (Marcia) Browne of Pahoa; daughters, Sharon (Josh) Kenyon of Waikoloa, Betsy Del Sarto of Pahoa, Elizabeth Browne of Hawaii and Alanette Browne of Puerto Rico; numerous grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The family requests donations to North Hawaii Hospice in Waimea in lieu of flowers.
Arrangements are by Dodo Mortuary.
Email Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.