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HONOLULU – By his own admission, Peter Leong is living the life of retirement most people dream of, and though he says he misses a lot of people and interacting with credit union staff, he’s relishing his time these days pursuing passions he didn’t have enough time for before. To cap it off, he’s doing it from his home in Honolulu. Leong says he couldn’t ask for more. The 69-year old Leong, who is a native of the island of Maui and who retired as president/CEO of Hawaii State FCU – the largest credit union in the state – in December 2001 after 10 years of service, lives in Honolulu with his wife Merrily. Instead of going to work and being engrossed in credit union responsibilities, his days are filled with more leisurely activities. Leong was succeeded at the credit union by Deborah Kim, who is the first woman to be president of the CU in its history. Leong is still involved with the HSFCU Board. What’s a typical day like for Leong? “There’s no such thing,” he answers. “Our passion is traveling, and Merrily and I have traveled extensively both throughout the U.S. and overseas.” Among the many places the two have visited are the Far East, Vietnam, Europe – the day after he retired, Leong and his wife flew to London – and closer to home they’ve seen Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons as well as other scenic stops such as San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Boston. The two of them have also continued to hone their skills at playing the 500-year old Japanese Taiko drum. Leong has played the drum for eight years and started taking classes from a worldclass master before he retired. Merrily caught the bug from him. “It’s something we do together,” he says, modestly adding that “I’m not very good at it.” Actually Leong has made some cameo appearances on stage playing the Taiko and has served as an emcee at local concerts for a Taiko-performing group from Japan. Leong also remains active in his community and has participated in various events not typically open to the public. Last year, for example, he accepted an invitation to fly aboard a KC-135 refueling tanker flying from Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu to Moffat Airfield in California. Leong never set out to work with credit unions. He actually worked for the state government for more than 20 years, the first half as a civil servant and the second half as a political appointee. When his boss – the governor – wasn’t reelected, Leong was offered the position of administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, but he turned it down. Leong said he found himself at a crossroads when he got a call from a director of the Hawaii Credit Union League who suggested Leong apply for a vice-president spot at the League. Conceding he didn’t know much about credit unions at the time, the then 49-year old Leong applied for the position and got the job. A year later he became League president succeeding Edmund Leong (no relation), and he continued to work in the corner office at the league for seven years. Hawaii State FCU lured Leong away from the league when its president Hal Horstman retired. Just as Leong did not deliberately intend to work with credit unions, he says he also didn’t intentionally give himself 10 years to work at HSFCU before retiring. “I saw a lot of potential in the credit union, but in January 2001 members of the board and I went on a planning retreat. I told them then I planned to retire because things were good and I always wanted to retire on top,” says Leong, recalling that “when I made the official announcement later that summer, everyone at the credit union was surprised. “The brain tends to become comfortable after awhile. I still had the edge, but time is a precious commodity. So is the freedom of choice. When you’re in charge of something, there are demands on your freedom of choice. It was time for me to give myself more freedom,” Leong says. It isn’t just interacting with credit union staff that Leong misses since retiring. He also misses unraveling problems and fixing stuff. The trade-off, he says, is now I don’t have to look at the consequences of events. “I can yell at the TV at all the dumb things officials do,” he says. Still, Leong has no regrets over deciding to retire. “Things keep coming my way,” he says, referring to what he calls “the lovely introspections of life.” -

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