The calls came nightly from a friendly man with a mission to help.
And now the calls will not come at all and our world will be a little bit darker.
Chester Chee, a statistician and scorekeeper for Oahu high school soccer, died recently at age 75.
“How are you doing?” Chester would ask to whoever in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser sports department happened to pick up the phone. Chester would verify who he was speaking with every time, so he could make a proper greeting by using your name.
Oftentimes, whoever picked up the phone would finish the conversation just a bit happier. Sometimes there were comments:
“I just love Chester.”
“What a guy. Chester Chee.”
“Imagine if we didn’t have Chester? How would we get soccer scores?”
But it wasn’t just us at the Star-Advertiser who got to know Chester and his bright personality. He developed a special bond with those at other media outlets and an especially close relationship with those individuals tasked with running the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s boys and girls soccer state tournaments.
Chee was a de facto clearinghouse for soccer scores. Basically, if either the ILH or OIA were in action, he would get us the final score and all of the goal scorers. He made it a point to be in touch with all the coaches and scorekeepers of all the teams.
Every once in a while, Chester would have difficulty getting us a score, but whenever that happened because, say the coach forgot to call him, he would have the score for us the next day.
Chee was a throwback. He NEVER emailed us the scores. That would be too easy. And how do you get to say hello to everybody that way?
He FAXED the scores and then made the call to make sure we got them.
That throwback style, so to speak, was refreshing in this day of instant electronic communication and mind-numbing phone surfing.
The Hawaii soccer and sports media community will certainly have a bit of difficulty making sure the scores get out there this year. What other one person is going to do what he did?
But that’s the least of what we will be missing. At the state tournaments, who is going to hand deliver the scores in the press box with a smile on his face and usually some kind of personal compliment as well?
Not many of those kind of throwbacks left.
“He started with us playing soccer in high school at Kaiser,” said Chester’s son, Nelson Chee, whose twin brother Nathan was also on the team. “Nobody was reporting any stats to the papers, so he took it upon himself to do it. Then when my younger brother Jonathan played for Kaiser, he got more involved with the team and the opponents and began sharing scores with the coaches.
“After a few seasons, they asked, ‘Hey can you do it for the whole OIA, the ILH and the state championships?’ ”
Nelson Chee, who is now the Kaiser athletic director, said his father’s death was sudden and unexpected. Chester Chee, who was a professional accountant, also leaves his loving wife, Charlotte.
“He was a simple guy,” Nelson continued. “He wasn’t expecting a lot. He just wanted to help people. There was a need that nobody was filling. Hawaii is a big soccer community. He was the missing part. He loved that. Numbers were his thing.”
Nelson Chee also talked about the things he was told by many from the soccer community who offered condolences: “The biggest thing I heard was that he was always dependable and he kept people on track and made sure about confirming things. He was always positive, never had negative things to say. Even when people lost, he would tell them, ‘You’ll get ’em next time.’ He wanted to be around people, coaches, referees and athletic directors. It made him happy and many people told me he made them laugh. He loved the sport. He didn’t really like to be in the forefront.”
Natalie Iwamoto of the HHSAA will be one of the many who will dearly miss Chee, the man, as well as Chee, the statistician.
“Above all the thing I will miss most about Chester is his genuine care and concern for other people,” Iwamoto said. “Whenever I arrived at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium, he would already be there, ready to go. He would always greet me with a smile, tell me that he hasn’t seen me in a long time and ask how my daughters were doing. He would be so happy to be there to help and that all he needed was a cup of coffee and he was good. Greg Van Cantfort and Jan Allen (who help coordinating the tournament) would always bring their Keurig and all the coffee and hot chocolate supplies and set up a station in the press box to make sure Chester was taken care of. And at the end of the night, he would thank me for letting him help, give me a hug and be on his way.
“The media covering the matches would always say, ‘Chester is the man!’ And he sure was. I always say that we need to have a Chester Chee for every sport.
“This year is going to be really hard for me to walk into that Waipio press box and Chester is not there, especially after the 13 years that I’ve gotten to know him. The tournament will just not be the same, but it will go on. There will be a seat reserved for him in his honor along with his stat sheet and handheld stopwatch that he used to determine the time of each goal.”