April 21, 2009
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Herbert Wolff, a decorated veteran of three wars and active member of the military and civilian communities in Hawai'i, died April 17 in Honolulu. He was 83.
Among his accomplishments, Wolff led the effort to save Battery Randolph at Fort DeRussy and create a museum dedicated to the men and women who served in the Pacific arena. In 1976, he founded the nonprofit Hawaii Army Museum Society to support the development of the museum and served as its president for more than 30 years.
Vicki Olson, executive director of the Hawaii Army Museum Society and a friend of Wolff, said Wolff worked tirelessly to build the museum and dedicated his life to it.
"He was a visionary," Olson said. "He saw that this was a story that needed to be told, and it preserved a green space and it preserved a historic building and it's the center of Waikiki."
Wolff's community work didn't end with the museum. He also served on the boards of the Girls Scout Council of Hawaii and Boy Scouts Aloha Council, Pacific Asian Affairs Council, USO-Hawaii, Armed Services YMCA, March of Dimes and the Honolulu Rotary Club.
He worked with the Association of the United States Army and served as honorary consul general for Malaysia since 1985. In 1993, Wolff was awarded the honorary title of Dato' by the king of Malaysia.
"Some people you think, 'How do they do all that they do?' " Olson said. "He was just remarkable, extraordinary and very generous."
Wolff was born on May 24, 1925, in Cologne, Germany. His family moved to the United States in 1939 to escape the increasing Nazi threat.
Wolff joined the Army soon after graduating from high school and began a 38-year career that would see him serve in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He rose quickly through the ranks and at age 29 was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
In 1970, Wolff served in Hawai'i for the first time as commander of the U.S. Army Security Agency-Pacific. After a tour in Germany, he returned to Hawai'i in 1977 to command the U.S. Army CINCPAC Support Group
While here, he created the U.S. Western Command and became active in the community. Among his activities, he helped form the Wai'anae Military Civilian Advisory Council to help better relationships. He also formed the Pacific Army Management Seminar, an annual meeting of Army leaders of Pacific nations.
Wolff retired in October 1981. During his service, Wolff received three Distinguished Service Medals, which is the Army's highest award for service; two Silver stars; four Legions of Merit; the Distinguished Flying Cross; four Bronze stars; and a Purple Heart.
Although retired, he remained active. He joined First Hawaiian Bank and rose to a senior vice president position. Olson said Wolff continued to work with the museum and other organizations despite his declining health.
"He loved what he was doing," she said. "He really believed in what he was doing. He believed in giving back to society and the community, set a wonderful example. He a remarkable man."
Wolff is survived by sons, Rick and Allen; and eight grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Borthwick Mortuary and again from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Friday at Central Union Church; service at 10 a.m. Burial at 1 p.m. at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Contributions may be made to the Hawaii Army Museum Society, P.O. Box 8064, Honolulu, HI 96830.