Homer A. Maxey Jr., who was instrumental in forming Hawaii’s Foreign Trade Zone program, died April 14 at his home in Kailua.
The 92-year-old left such a mark on international trade that in 2014 the Homer A. Maxey International Trade Center at Pier 2 in the Port of Honolulu was named in his honor. He has also been honored with numerous state and national awards.
But those who knew Maxey said he was a humble man who found his true legacy in acts of kindness and family love.
His son, Rick Maxey, told the Star-Advertiser on Sunday that his father was “very accomplished but extremely humble. He didn’t need a fanfare. He didn’t need his name on a building.
“That sums up Homer and his character – he gave everything and needed nothing in return. Unfortunately, we live in a time where there has to be a reason, and there really isn’t. You don’t have you don’t have to have a reason to do something good or something that helps others.
The inauguration of the building was not the only major honor awarded to Maxey, who was also one of the 10 founders of the National Association of Free Zones and served as its first president from 1973 to 1975.
NAFTZ presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Maxey and established the Homer A. Maxey Advocacy Award, given to a nationally recognized industry professional for their work on behalf of the association.
Hawaii’s international trade industry saw many firsts under Maxey, who was considered a pioneer in the industry. Under Maxey, Foreign Trade Zone No. 9 was the first in the United States to receive the President’s “E” Award for Excellence in Exporting.
Maxey became the first administrator of FTZ9 in 1966 and remained in this leadership role until his retirement in 1993.
Governor David Ige said in a statement, “Homer Maxey helped build Hawaii’s future at a critical time as the state pivoted toward expanding its economic base. His work in the maritime and international trade industries was immeasurable.
Maxey helped Hawaii’s economy grow and industrialize by establishing the first oil refinery to use FTZ procedures in its operations. It also established the first flour milling operations to use a free zone for export markets and the first manufacturing operation for export markets.
David Sikkink, the current administrator of FTZ9, said in a statement, “Homer exemplified the aloha spirit and will be sorely missed.”
“When Mr. Maxey started with FTZ9, there were only eight other foreign trade zones in the United States. Currently, there are 294 approved zones and 857 subzones nationwide,” Sikkink said. “Through his visionary work and dedication to the Free Zones program, he has created an indelible legacy not only for local industry, but which is recognized nationally.”
Maxey was born on June 11, 1928 in Koloa on Kauai, where his mother was part of the large Hawaiian Brandt family. He was a member of the Class of 1946 at the Punahou School and attended the University of Hawaii.
He served in the US Air Force during the Korean War, but was stationed in Hawaii. He worked at Hawaiian Airlines and then at Matson Navigation Co. where he met his wife, Mahina Trask Maxey.
The couple married in 1956. Maxey was holding his wife’s hand when he died on their 65th birthday.
Rick Maxey said his father sang “Happy Anniversary” to his mother while he was in the hospital before their anniversary, but he wanted himself to live just long enough to mark one more year of marriage.
Mahina Maxey recalled, “We shared everything in our lives together.”
“He was a very, very easy-to-love man. He was just the nicest person I’ve ever met,” she said. “He was very loving and very caring. It just clicked with us, and we had all these kids, they seemed on top of each other, but it was wonderful, he taught the kids how to surf, sail and dive.
Rick Maxey said the family is still working on funeral arrangements, but he said they plan to scatter his father’s ashes from a boat, which will be renamed Homer A. in honor of his father.
In addition to Rick Maxey and Mahina Maxey, Maxey is survived by children Leanne Morin, Mark Maxey and Maile Ford; brother Donald Maxey; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.