By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph, the Tribune-Herald’s running columnist who promoted health and fitness as his life’s motto, died Tuesday night. He was 65.
He was an avid runner and community activist, staging running events for the public. Joseph was also the executive director of the Big Island International Marathon, and a retired public school teacher with over 30 years in the Department of Education.
He was a member of the Big Island Hall of Fame, along with his wife, Randee Arkin. He coached Big Island Interscholastic Federation cross country, and track and field, first at Pahoa and later at Waiakea for over 20 years.
Last February, Joseph underwent surgery for a malignant brain tumor, glioblastoma, a rare disease. Still, shortly after being released by Queen’s Hospital on Oahu, he was walking 30 miles per week. He left the hospital after four days, a stay that was expected to last a week.
His health declined in the past couple of weeks. He was at home when he passed away. His wife and daughter, Jaclynn, were with him.
Joseph’s “Running with the Big Dog” column appeared every Monday for the last nine years, focusing on a wide range of subjects from runners, swimmers, bikers and healthy people who found ways to stay healthy and fit.
“He was not just an advocate for health and fitness, but he told about it through the people he profiled,” said Hugh Clark, a longtime friend. “He did a hell of a job profiling the people involved from old ladies to young guys. The Big Island will miss him.”
When Joseph was recovering in the hospital a year ago, he was told to find a friend, a rock he could lean on to relieve the stress his wife was going through. He turned to former Mayor Harry Kim, a subject he profiled last year.
“I know it sounds like cliches, but he was always about trying your best and never giving up. He symbolized that,” Kim said. “His attitude was always so up there. I greatly admired him for that, whether it was running, naturally his daughter and his family, and his attitude of life. It was such a positive good thing.
“We were lucky to have him here. He contributed to making this a better place. We all benefited from the kind of person he was.”
In November, Joseph wrote about Robert Otsubo, a former Waiakea cross country runner, who had quit the team several times. It was 2004 when Joseph saw Otsubo at the starting line for the BIIM, attempting his first 26.2-mile race.
He coached Otsubo, now in the military, the entire way. Otsubo finished in 3 hours and 29 minutes and Joseph finished two minutes later. Then Otsubo went back for his coach, and the two crossed the finish line together.
Otsubo set a course record for 18 and under. In his column, the Big Dog called that experience one of his proudest coaching moments. Later, Otsubo wrote a letter to Joseph: “Thank you for teaching me so much about running, motivation, determination and commitment.”
Joseph’s interests carried beyond sports. He was a former chairman for the county Board of Ethics and served on the Board of Appeals, and other boards and commissions.
“He did a lot of community service,” Arkin said. “He enjoyed it and liked seeing things done the right way. He was a very ethical person. He was always positive and saw a bright side to everything.
“When we drove home from the hospital (on Tuesday), the sun was shining and he was smiling, waving goodbye to everyone. He was gone too soon.”
The Big Dog’s blog can be found at http://waynejoseph.worldpress.com.
Funeral services are pending.