Charlie Fern’s family visits Kaua’i

A great-nephew of Charlie Fern is visiting Kaua’i this week. Fern was one of the leading public figures on Kaua’i during the 20th century, and was the long-time former publisher and editor of The Garden Island, an association that began in the early 1920s and lasted through the 1960s,

Paul Fern is a dentist in Highlands Ranch, Colo. outside of Denver, and is the son of Charlie Fern’s nephew Albert Fern, Jr. Albert Fern, Sr. was Charlie Fern’s brother.

Joining Paul Fern on his first visit to Kaua’i are his wife Cathie, and daughters Kara, 15, and Ashley, 13. The family is here prior to attending the Academy of General Dentistry’s annual meeting, which is being held in Honolulu.

The Colorado dentist brought the story of the Fern family up-to-date and provided some Fern family history.

He said his grandfather Albert joined the Navy in World War I as an officer, at about the same time Charlie became an aviator for the Army, which led to Charlie Fern’s coming to Hawai’i, and flying the first cross-channel flight between O’ahu and Kaua’i. Albert Fern, Sr. and his wife Dora’s children included a son Paul, who was killed in World War II; a son Albert J. Fern, Jr. was a West Point graduate, a career officer in the Army and an aviator, and now lives in San Diego; and a daughter, Gloria Wollenhaupt, who also lives in San Diego.

Paul Fern’s father, Albert Fern Jr., had four children, “who all look like Charlie Fern,” he said. Besides himself, Fern said there are Albert’s oldest daughter, Susan Thompson, who is a legal secretary in Florida, a daughter Catie Franklin, who owns a jewelry story in Austin, Tex., and Charlene Fern, who is the namesake of Charlie and lives in Arlington, Va.

“He was always the life of the party,” Fern said of his great-uncle. “Charlie fern was the character of the family and the organizer of all the social events. My father looked up to him, and always talked about him. (The family) was proud he started air mail and air transportation to Kaua’i.”

Fern said Charlie Fern was renowned in his family for his days as a flying barnstormer, for flying around the islands of Hawai’i and for his association with The Garden Island.

“He would send us pineapples every Christmas, I remember that from when we were living at West Point,” Fern said.

He said his father followed in his uncle’s footsteps by becoming a pilot after a stint in Korea during the Korean Conflict. His father graduated from West Point in 1950, prior to going to Korea.

On a trip to Kaua’i following a tour of duty in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, Fern said his father paid a visit to Charlie Fern on Kaua’i, and took a tour of the island aboard a helicopter. Fern said he visited his great-uncle when Charlie Fern lived in a retirement home in Honolulu, but was never able to come to Kaua’i until this summer.

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