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Famous Filam Honolulu newspaper cartoonist, 69

Corky TrinidadHONOLULU – The Honolulu Star-Bulletin said “Corky” Trinidad, whose editorial cartoons for 40 years recorded life and lampooned politics in Hawaii and the world, died at 2 a.m. Feb. 13 of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 69.

The Star Bulletin said that in a 2001 interview, Trinidad, a Filipino American, predicted he’d die at his drawing table, spilling ink one last time.

The Star Bulletin continued:
“Corky was a Star-Bulletin treasure,” said Frank Bridgewater, editor.
“Many people, everywhere, started their day by checking out Corky. Even people without Hawaii connections who didn’t understand some of his cartoons looked forward to them. When Corky went on leave, readers immediately began calling and e-mailing me from everywhere wanting to know, ‘Where’s Corky?’”
[ad#featuredpost120x600-wht]Trinidad had been on leave for several months, battling pancreatic cancer.
“Any Hawaii cartoonist works in Corky’s shadow; he’s the ultimate local cartoonist,” said former MidWeek cartoonist Daryl Cagle, who syndicates Corky’s work. “Most of us marvel at how Corky is so prolific, drawing a color cartoon for the front page and a black-and-white one for the editorial page — every day! It’s the feat of a super-cartoonist. Even with that crazy output, Corky keeps his quality up and is one of the best cartoonists anywhere.”
Four decades after joining the staff of the Star-Bulletin, Trinidad was still the only daily political cartoonist of Asian ancestry working in American newspapers.
Francisco Flores Trinidad Jr., was born May 26, 1939 in Manila, Philippines. He was the first Asian editorial cartoonist to be syndicated in the United States, appearing in publications as diverse as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, Newsweek, Punch of London, Paris Herald Tribune, Politiken in Sweden, Buenos Aires Herald, Philippines Daily Journal and Manila Chronicle.
Son of a newspaper columnist and a broadcaster, and a survivor of Japanese occupation during World War II, Trinidad’s sympathy for underdogs led him to consider joining anti-government Huk rebels.
Instead of a weapon, Trinidad picked up a pen — his nickname Corky comes from a favorite character in the comic strip “Gasoline Alley.”
Earning a degree in journalism from the University of Ateneo de Manila in 1960, Trinidad signed on with the Philippines Herald in 1961 as a political cartoonist and columnist, doubling as graphics director for all Herald publications. By the mid-’60s, Trinidad was the best-known cartoonist in Asia, drafted by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post Syndicate as the first-ever non-American editorial cartoonist. Trinidad created the comic strip “Nguyen Charlie” during the Vietnam War for Pacific Stars and Stripes, coming to the attention of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He joined the newspaper in 1969.
“He really had to leave the Philippines because of harrassment by Ferdinand Marcos,” said Carl Zimmerman, former Star-Bulletin editorial writer. The Philippines president, who would declare martial law in 1972, did not like the criticism. “If he had stayed, he’d have wound up in prison because of his cartoons.”
At the Star-Bulletin, “I think I’m one of the lucky ones,” Trinidad once said. “I work for a paper that has a journalistic attitude toward the cartoon and an editorial philosophy compatible with my own.
“I agree with Bill Mauldin, who disdains the title ‘editorial cartoonist.’ The craft cries out to be treated for what it should be: a cartoon commentary. I’m glad my paper agrees — sometimes wholeheartedly, sometimes grudgingly.”
John Simonds, Trinidad’s former editor, recalled a dinner nearly 30 years ago at which Trinidad received an award from the Hawaii American Civil Liberties Union. Trinidad’s response might have surprised the ACLU crowd, said Simonds, as he “reminded the gathering that the U.S.A. was his home by choice, that he was happy, grateful and proud to have become an American citizen. He did not take any of its benefits for granted.”
In addition to nearly four decades of daily and often twice-daily cartoon panels, Trinidad syndicated the comic strips “Zeus!” and “Aloha Eden,” both reflecting his interest in ancient mythology. Trinidad also taught cartooning at the University of Hawaii and always welcomed young cartoonists into his office.
“Corky really became the face of the Star-Bulletin for many years,” said Zimmerman. “Not just because of his cartoons, but because he made hundreds of visits to Hawaii classrooms to talk to kids.”
Trinidad began earning awards early, including a Ten Outstanding Young Men award for journalism in 1965; a UCLA Foreign Journalism Award in 1967; the top award twice for editorial cartooning in the Salon Des Humour competition in Montreal, Canada; the ACLU Allan Saunders Award in 1982; Freedom Foundation Thomas Jefferson medal in 1980, and the Fletcher Knebel journalism prize in 1998.
In 2005, when he was inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists’ Hawaii Journalism Hall of Fame, Trinidad’s citation noted that he fought pen-and-ink battles “against the wars in Vietnam in the 1960s and in Iraq today, for civil rights, for justice for all, for compassion for the poor, the homeless, Palestinians, for the disenfranchised, for blacks, for Filipinos, for Hawaiians, in defense of the environment, for a cleaner society, physically and ethically.”

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