HONOLULU — Bruce Dunford, whose exploits as a longtime Associated Press reporter prompted then-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle to declare the day he retired “Bruce Dunford Day,” has died, his family said.
Dunford died in his sleep Friday at a care home in Ewa Beach, near Honolulu, his son Terrence Dunford said. He was 79.
Bruce Dunford reported for the AP for 37 years, including more than two decades covering Hawaii politics. A tongue-in-cheek proclamation Lingle issued upon his 2004 retirement said he would be “forever known as the Capitol Jester” for his puns, jokes and put-downs.
The proclamation said he had an “uncanny psychic ability” to know when Lingle would arrive for work, so he could approach her in the Capitol basement with questions.
Richard Borreca, who covered politics around the same time for what was then the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, recalled gossiping with Dunford over lunch “with an appropriate disrespect for all the political players in town.” Borreca said one of the charming things about Dunford, whose preferred work attire was a pair of jeans and an aloha shirt and who enjoyed riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, was that he never took himself too seriously.
“Bruce was a one of a kind — an irreverent, unimpressionable reporter and the absolute definition of a heart of gold,” Borreca said. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do, especially if there was a beer involved.”
Born in Medford, Oregon, and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona, Dunford joined the AP in Honolulu in 1967 after learning to be a journalist in the Navy. He met his wife when he was stationed in Hawaii and she was working at the Pink Poodle ice cream parlor in Waikiki, Terrence Dunford said.
Bruce Dunford attended the University of Hawaii for a while after leaving the Navy but started working for the AP when his second son was born and a position opened at the wire service.
Terrence Dunford recalled that when he was in high school, his father worked the evening shift, which gave him the morning to hit the waves.
“Sometimes when we were at school, at recess or at lunch, we’d see the van heading off to the beach where Dad would go bodysurfing or bodyboarding before going off to work,” he said.
Bruce Dunford loved covering politics, his son said.
“I know sometimes he would get in trouble for asking questions. But that’s his job – is to ask the question,” Terrence Dunford said.
Bruce Dunford also is survived by his wife of 56 years, Ann; three other sons, Kenneth, David and Robert; four grandchildren and a sister, Pat Guthrie.