Thurston Twigg-Smith

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Thurston "Koke" Twigg-Smith

Birthplace: Honolulu, Honolulu County, HI, United States
Death: July 16, 2016 (94)
Honolulu, Honolulu County, HI, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Twigg-Smith and Margaret Carter Twigg-Smith
Husband of Private and Sharon Twigg-Smith
Ex-husband of Private; Private; Bessie Twigg-Smith (Bell) and Private
Father of Private; Private; Private; Private; Private and 5 others
Brother of Barbara Honl; David Twigg-Smith; Barbara Salisbury and Private

Managed by: Margaret Fivash
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Thurston Twigg-Smith

Thurston Twigg-Smith (born 1921) is a businessman and philanthropist from Hawaii.


Twigg-Smith is a fifth generation Hawaii resident. He was born in 1921 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the son of William and Margaret Thurston Twigg-Smith (1895–1931), making him the great-great grandson of Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston as well as Lorrin Andrews — who were pioneer missionaries to the Islands of Hawaii — and the grandson of Lorrin A. Thurston, who played a key role in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. His father was an artist and a musician who supported his family as an illustrator at the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association.

Twigg-Smith grew up in the lower Nuʻuanu Valley on Bates Street, in a house his father built on his Grandfather Lorrin's property. At the time, L.A. Thurston was publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser.

Twigg-Smith, his brother David and sister Barbara attended Lincoln and Kapalama elementary schools. Twigg-Smith went on to President Theodore Roosevelt High School for junior high and entered Punahou School in the 10th grade on a scholarship.

He graduated from Punahou School in 1938 (there is a building named after him in the Case Middle School at Punahou School) and earned a mechanical engineering degree from Yale University in 1942 Twigg-Smith served in the armed forces during World War II in Europe in five campaigns. He attained the rank of captain in the field artillery and was awarded the Bronze Star. Returning to Hawaii in December, 1945, he started work at the Honolulu Advertiser in February, 1946 and as a major, started the 483rd Field Artillery battalion in the Hawaii National Guard. He left the guard in 1954 as a lieutenant colonel to concentrate on his duties as managing editor of the newspaper. In 1961 he took control of the financially ailing paper with the help of outside investors and by 1993 had turned it into a profitable operation which was bought by a regional subsidiary of the Gannett Company for $250 million.

Twigg-Smith founded the Persis Corporation in 1967, originally named "Asa Corporation (Hawaii)" after his missionary ancestor. Persis Corporation philanthropy includes The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Friends of Opal Creek, Goodale Farm, Hawaii Theatre Center, Historic Hawaii Foundation, the Laniakea Foundation, the Lyman House Memorial Museum, Punahou School, and Yale University. Twigg-Smith has been a major supporter of non-profit service organizations and of the arts and in 1997 was named Hawaii's Philanthropist of the Year. The Yale website notes:

Thurston Twigg-Smith has long been an enthusiastic patron of both artists and art museums," says Susan Vogel, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the gallery. "Since 1991, when he joined the Yale Art Gallery's governing board, he has given us 38 important contemporary works, among them such masterpieces as Diebenkorn's 'Ocean Park No. 24' and Wayne Thiebaud's 'Drink Syrups.' And 80 more are promised. It gives us great pleasure to share with our visitors the spirited and often witty works of art that have charmed this collector's 'Hawaiian Eye.'"

Opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty

In the 1990s, Twigg-Smith began taking an active role in opposing the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, writing a book, Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter? in 1994 that defended his grandfather's actions. He funds several programs and lawsuits that advocate against a sovereign Hawaiian nation and Hawaiian-based policies in Hawaii.

Family life

He married art collector Laila Roster in 1970; they divorced in 1996 and she died in 1998.

He was married three times. He married firstly to Bessie Blossom Bell (1921-2010) in 1942; they divorced in 1984. From his first wife Bessie Blossom Twigg-Smith (née Bell) (1921-2010) he had five children: Elizabeth "Ibby" Jenkins (née Twigg-Smith; formerly Pfeffer) (New Haven, Connecticut, March 16, 1943-Honolulu, Hawaii, August 7, 2015), Thurston Twigg-Smith Jr., William Twigg-Smith, Margaret Fivash (née Twigg-Smith) and Evelyn Twigg-Smith. He married secondly Laila Roster (née Bergs) (Dresden, Germany, December 12, 1944-New York State, March 24, 1998), the former wife of Fred Howard Roster, in 1984; they divorced in 1994. He married thirdly Sharon Carter Smith in 1996.

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Thurston Twigg-Smith's Timeline

August 17, 1921
Honolulu, Honolulu County, HI, United States
March 16, 1943
New Haven, Connecticut, United States