Peter C. P. Char

Peter C. P. Char

Died January 12, 2003

Peter Char’s middle name was Chi-Ping which means “possessing the quality of peace,” and, according to his widow, Lynette, “that was his nature.” You can see it in the way he described his work as a defense attorney in medical malpractice suits: “Dealing with physicians and surgeons whose egos have been damaged by lawsuits from unhappy patients is an intense way to make a living but it can be rewarding by bringing the confrontation to an end.”

Peter graduated from Northwestern University School of Law in ’68 and went home to Honolulu, where he began his legal career as clerk to the Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court.

He then joined the firm of Cades, Schutte, Fleming and Wright, and became a partner. Peter left in 1980 to set up his own law offices of Char, Hamilton, Taylor and Thom, specializing in medical malpractice defense. For more than 15 years he represented the Hawaii Residency Program at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine where he also mentored students and often was a guest lecturer. He also taught courses for paralegals at the Richardson School of Law. Lynette remembers that “he always made time for teaching and mentoring.”

Peter “was very proud to have gone to Yale,” Lynette says. He took her back there in the 1980s when he was defending a client in Connecticut and was surprised to find his room in Stiles occupied by a woman.

In his 25th reunion essay Peter wrote that “the future probably holds more travel and more fish to catch.” He would take his cousin’s 32-foot boat out in the waters south of Oahu and once a year make a pilgrimage to Bella Bella, off the coast of Vancouver, to fish for salmon. Pete thought he might like to become an appellate judge but said, “I have no real concerns of what will happen in the future.”

Pete died unexpectedly on January 12, 2003, after a fall at home. In addition to Lynette, he is survived by his daughter, Janelle (whose birth he described as the most important event in his first 25 years after Yale), son, Gregory, and granddaughter, Melina.

Gerold Libby remembers: After our graduation from Yale in 1965, I traveled to East Asia via Hawaii and visited Peter in Honolulu. He was excited by my visit, the first, he told me, by a member of Yale ’65. He and his lovely fiancee showed me around Honolulu and Oahu with great pride. I, of course, was dazzled. My memory of breakfast at his family’s home on Diamond Head, which included steak topped with slices of mango to the sound of the surf a short distance away, is vivid. From time to time thereafter I had professional contact with Peter, on which occasions he always displayed the vigor, competence and focus he had demonstrated at Yale.

Michael Cole remembers: Peter was one of my two assigned roommates during my freshman year in Farnam (along with Don Alderman). Hailing from Hawaii and of Asian descent, he was a warm, outgoing and somewhat exotic presence who good-naturedly loved to razz me by calling me a “haole”, the slang Hawaiian term for a white person. He was very devoted to crew that year, a sport I had no knowledge of growing up in Indianapolis, but through Peter I came to appreciate the discipline and exertion required to excel…or simply survive the rigors of training.

I still recall Peter eagerly heading from our room, across the Old Campus to the post office in hopes of finding a letter from his girl friend from back home, Lynette. It was several years later that I got the news that they had married, so that relationship— which endured till Peter passed away—was clearly much more than a passing freshman year fantasy. I also recall that, prior to Yale, Peter had attended the Punahou School, the prestigious private school in Honolulu which I had never heard of before and never heard of again till 47 years later when I learned that it was the school attended by our incumbent president Barack Obama before he headed to college!

I enjoyed my year living with Peter, and found him to be an engaging and somewhat quirky guy. I last saw him when in Chicago a couple of years after graduation, catching up with him while he was attending Northwestern Law School. About a decade ago, after having no contact with him following his return to his native Hawaii to practice law, I was saddened to learn of his passing at far too young an age.and felt regret that I had failed to keep in touch.