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Isle musician dies in crash


Tribune-Herald staff writer

A 65-year-old Kalapana man killed Thursday when his motorcycle collided with a sport-utility vehicle at the intersection of Route 130 and Leilani Avenue has been identified by police as well-known musician and independent lava tour guide Bo Lozoff.

Lozoff also co-founded a prison ministry in his native North Carolina, visited prisons nationwide to sing and speak, and was a best-selling author.

“We’re grieving deeply today,” said Catherine Dumas Miller, a co-director of the Human Kindness Foundation, which Lozoff founded with his wife, Sita, in 1987. Lozoff retired from the foundation in 2011. Miller said Friday morning that Sita Lozoff was en route to the Big Island.

According to a written Hawaii Police Department statement, officers responding to a 3:34 p.m. call determined that Lozoff was riding a 2003 Suzuki motorcycle north on Highway 130 when a southbound 1999 Lexus SUV failed to yield the right of way and made a left turn onto Leilani.

Lozoff, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, died at the scene.

The SUV’s driver, identified in a police log as 66-year-old Thomas Butler of Pahoa, wasn’t injured. His 64-year-old wife, Geraldine Butler, was treated for minor injuries at Hilo Medical Center and released.

Police said it’s unknown at this time if alcohol, drugs or speed were factors in the crash.

Lozoff, a singer/songwriter/guitarist, was known for his birthday tribute concerts to Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and John Prine at East Hawaii Cultural Center and for performing the third Saturday of each month at the Hilo Coffee Mill farmer’s market in Mountain View.

EHCC Executive Director Dennis Taniguchi described Lozoff’s death as “a huge loss.”

“He performs here at EHCC three or four times a year and always raises money for us,” Taniguchi said. “He’s a really good guy and a great musician. His Johnny Cash voice is just incredible.”

Jeanette Baysa, a Hilo Coffee Mill co-owner, said that she lost “a friend and part of the Hilo Coffee Mill farmer’s market family.”

“He was very caring, very interested in anything that was happening,” she said. “He would take off periodically to the mainland for outreach and concerts in prisons. He was compared to Johnny Cash a lot for the way he dressed, but he also did a lot of the same things Johnny Cash did.”

Added Hilo Coffee Mill co-owner Katherine Patton: “Whenever he played at Hilo Coffee Mill, he brought a lot of people with him. He had a really good following.”

Lozoff had released a new CD of his original songs, “Bo Goes Country,” in October. He also recorded at least three prior albums: “Whatever it Takes,” “Eyes so Soft” and “Stumbling Toward the Light.”

Lozoff also took tourists to see active lava flows and spoke Sunday to the Tribune-Herald for an article published Monday about lava from Kilauea volcano entering the ocean for the first time since New Year’s Day. In a reflection that didn’t appear in the article, Lozoff said he was “blessed to be able to support myself doing two things that I love, playing music and taking people out to view the lava safely.”

While lava hikers are told to wear solid shoes and long pants for protection, Lozoff himself often trekked to the flows and back shirtless and clad in shorts and flip-flops.

Lozoff’s first book, “We’re All Doing Time,” is in its 19th printing and Village Voice called it “one of the ten books everyone in the world should read.”

The late Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister known better as TV’s “Mister Rogers,” called Lozoff one of his heroes. The Dalai Lama wrote forewords to two of Lozoff’s books. Alternative news bellwether Utne Reader pronounced Lozoff “one of America’s 100 spiritual visionaries,” while Outlaw Biker magazine called him “one righteous dude.”

Lozoff’s life was not without controversy, however. Indy Week, an online alternative news site in North Carolina, published an article on Aug. 27, 2008, titled “The Two Faces of Bo Lozoff: Fall From Grace,” alleging that he “bullied and intimidated ex-offenders paroled at Kindness House” — which was part of his prison ministry.

He was also accused of sexual improprieties by “several female volunteers and one female parolee,” according to the article. The article stated that the allegations “prompted the self-styled mystic to close Kindness House.”

In another previously unpublished reflection, Lozoff told the Tribune-Herald in 2010 that the article “has followed me everywhere.”

Hilo Coffee Mill plans a tribute to Lozoff on Saturday, Dec. 15, Patton said. There is no word yet on funeral arrangements.

Lozoff’s death is the 37th traffic fatality on the Big Island compared to 20 at this time last year. A negligent homicide investigation has been opened and an autopsy has been ordered.

Police ask that anyone with information about the crash call Officer Tuckloy Aurello at 961-8119.

Email John Burnett at


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