Mike Fern, The Garden Island newspaper’s genius editor

Born in Lihu‘e in 1923, Mike Fern was the son of Mary Fern and Charles “Charlie” J. Fern (1892-1995), the Hawaiian aviation pioneer and newspaperman who was with The Garden Island newspaper from 1922 until 1966, when he sold the paper.

In 1940, Charlie Fern also established Kaua‘i’s first radio station KOWY, later renamed KTOH.

According to Mike Ashman (1921-2018), who resided on Kaua‘i during the 1940s and 1950s and worked at KTOH, Mike Fern was a genius.

Mike’s mother once told Ashman that little Mike’s first words were spoken in sentences, and if she read him a children’s story once and didn’t repeat it exactly a second time, he’d correct her.

And, one of Mike’s teachers at Lihu‘e School in Pua Loke informed Ashman that “We loved Mike Fern, but he was exasperating. He knew everything about the subject being taught. He always was correcting us, and he was always right.”

Another teacher said that while her other students were just learning to read, Mike would be reading Time magazine.

Ashman also recalled the day when he was writing a story on Kekaha Sugar Co. and had asked Mike if he knew the plantation’s production for a past year.

“For which field?” was Mike’s prompt reply.

Kama‘aina Kaua‘i rancher and auto dealer Holbrook “Hobey” Goodale (1924-2014) once asked Mike, just for fun, if he remembered the license plate number of his friend Bob Englehardt’s father’s truck of some years back.

Mike responded instantly, and Hobey and Bob Englehardt went to the Ahukini Railway warehouse that Bob’s father managed.

Inside, nailed to a wall among other old plates was the plate Mike had correctly identified.

Still another indication of Mike’s genius was his ability to perform arithmetical calculations of large numbers in his head with perfect accuracy.

Genius Mike Fern was promoted to editor at The Garden Island in 1953 and resigned in 1966, after which he became a reporter for The Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser for a spell before moving California to work with computers.

He’d never married, and died at Covina, California, in December 2019.


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