Hawai'i Forgiveness Heroes

The following individuals were honored as Heroes of Forgiveness at the events in Honolulu, August 7, 2005.

free videos
of the "Students of Forgiveness" Awards
available here


Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, award-winning artist Peggy Chun has been a resident of Hawaii since 1969. Peggy's colorful and whimsical artwork captures the "spirit of Aloha" that is Hawaii. In the spring of 2002, Peggy was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, the same disease that plagued her mother and her twin sister, Bobbie. Bobbie, who passed away in 1987, was a well-established artist herself and was the inspiration for Peggy to pick up her first paintbrush in 1989. She has been creating ever since.

Currently, there is no cure for ALS. But this debilitating motor neuron disease has yet to slow Peggy down. Though wheelchair bound, Peggy continues to paint daily. When the disease weakened Peggy's painting hand in early 2003, she determinedly taught herself to paint with her left hand. You will see a tiny "LH" signed next to her signature indicating pieces that were done entirely with her left hand. Recently, she has also lost the strength in her left hand. But, no problem there for Peggy -- you will see a tiny "T"signed on images that she has painted with her teeth! Peggy has forgiven life's cruel twists of fate and showing us all how to "let go" and live in the present!

Peggy works primarily in watercolor, but has also explored a variety of media over the years, including acrylic, oil, pastel, photography, and collage. At the start of her painting career, Peggy studied under the guidance of well-known Honolulu artist, Gloria Foss. She continued her art education at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Peggy has been an active member of the Hawaii Watercolor Society since 1989. And while prized as one of Hawaii's most beloved artist, Peggy also has a strong following in back home in Oklahoma.


Lorenn Walker has lived on her own since she was 14 years old, dropped out of high school at 15, and was adjudicated as a juvenile offender. She put herself through college, law school and earned a masters degree in public health. A life-long surfer, former champion windsurfer, triathlete, wife, and mother of three children, Lorenn is living proof of how to transform conflict into resiliency.

While visiting Waikiki as a young single mother in her early twenties, Lorenn suffered a violent attack that nearly killed her, an attack so vicious that it left "hand prints" around her neck. Her unknown assailant was never found and this experience thrust Lorenn into a journey of personal exploration that has come full circle with forgiveness of her attacker and her work within the emerging promising practice of restorative justice. Lorenn actually views her traumatic encounter as a turning point in her life that moved her towards her empowerment, inner healing and realizing the transforming power of forgiveness.

As a public health educator and trainer whose work focuses on violence prevention and resiliency development, Lorenn teaches personal and public speaking and administration of justice courses for the University of Hawai'i college system, and is often a guest speaker on health issues and conflict resolution. She has written and researched for academic journals, including an article that was cited in a brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of a man on death row who was sentenced as a minor. Lorenn also develops restorative justice programs, researching and writing about the programs and is a hands-on practitioner who also implements them. Her unique background enables her to reach out to both victims and perpetrators of crime.

A "recovering litigator," Lorenn was a Hawai'i state deputy attorney general for a decade and also represented children's rights in family court in private practice.


Jennifer and her four siblings lost their mother through a medical mishap after their mother gave birth to Jennifer's youngest brother. Jennifer found herself moving through different foster homes after her father was not able to be consistent parent. With an unfailing belief in her own inner spirit, a strong connection to her Hawaiian heritage, and a heart filled with compassion, Jennifer was able to survive and thrive through a childhood of remarkable challenges. With a heart of compassion, Jennifer was able to forgive: the hospital staff that erred in the death of her mother; her father for not being able to keep their family together; the foster care system for repeatedly failing her after she became a foster child.

Jennifer emerged as a central figure of strength for her siblings, including her youngest brother for whom she eventually became a foster parent. She also "hanai'd" other younger relatives whenever the need arose. Jennifer and her husband are parents of twin sons and an adopted baby girl. Jennifer is proud of her Hawaiian heritage and loves to paddle canoe with her halau. She has served as a trainer and facilitatted workshops for families, youth and staff on the mainland and Hawaii. Jennifer will be co-presenting a workshop on the development of positive self-identity for foster youth at the annual Hawaii Foster Parent Association Conference this October.


"Charlie" enlisted in the U.S. Navy during WWII. In 1945, Charlie received orders to proceed to Nagasaki, Japan, unaware that that city had been flattened with the Atomic Bomb. With no protective clothing and equipment upon arrival, the harbor area and valley were totally devastated with no moving persons, only wind.

On the morning of the third day Charlie and his fellow troops saw four Japanese citizens and tried to communicate with hepburn dictionaries. They distributed food and medical supplies to the citizens and realized these poor people were not his "enemies", but our common friends; they didn't do anything wrong, they were working for their government just like our citizens back home. Charlie asked for forgiveness on behalf of the Military for targeting this city with such a weapon of mass destruction. Today after 60 years, Charlie continues to suffer from numerous medical problems due to the radiation exposure, including basal cell carcinomas removed from his face (over 150), a hole in his retina, loss of teeth, and hearing failure in both ears.

Charlie still awaits justice from our government to accept that the troops were exposed to ionized radiation, although the Department of Defense, Dose Reconstruction Agency, continues to maintain there was "less than one rem of radiation in Nagasaki in September 1945". Charlie's hope is that the government and the American Medical Association will finally study ionized radiation, its treatment and cure, as this disease has continued to affect those exposed to the aftermath. Justice is all that he seeks.


Two men -- Stephen Baker and Larry Brown -- have been recognized as "Students of Forgiveness". Though still in prison at Waiawa Correctional Facility on O'ahu, their personal progress toward forgiveness, and their sharing of new life opportunities with fellow inmates, merits special attention from all who seek hope where at first there appears to be none.

Stephen and Larry have submitted statements of their own about forgiveness, which are included below. These stories are incorporated into this year's "Forgiveness Stories" book, a free publication which can be downloaded online at http://www.hawaiiforgivenessproject.org/stories/

These special awards will be presented by Lorenn Walker, one of our Heroes; she works with Larry and Stephen and many others in the Restorative Justice Program and Waiawa. The two men will appear at the festival by video, in short interviews that were recorded at the prison last week.


click here to see a short video

No human being escapes misfortune.

When I was ten years old my father committed suicide by pistol. Then, shortly after my thirteenth birthday, my mother committed suicide by a drug overdose.

I was devastated. Many people at the time tried to help me—social workers, teachers. Police officers, judges—but I didn’t want help. I was too busy rehashing both suicides in my mind and imagining how I could have prevented them.

I also spent quite a bit of time wondering where God was when I needed him.

To deal with my pain, I found alcohol and drugs. To fuel my addictions, I turned to crime. I was busy feeling sorry for myself and I had a ready-made excuse for my behavior; at the height of my insanity I was addicted to heroin and robbing banks. My actions led to repeated incarceration — and a cycle of drugs, crime and prison that spanned 30 years of my life.

2005 found me in prison once again at 50 years old — bitter with the belief that there was no hope for me. The difference was that I at Waiawa Correctional Facility in the Kashbox Treatment Program. I began to talk about my experiences with the death of my parents; I saw the mistakes I had made in life and felt the pain and blame that was still there.

In one particular session I broke down and finally grieved, 40 years after the fact. I learned that grief is a process.

My first introduction to the “Forgiveness Project” came while attending a program on Restorative Justice. In the class I found closure for my grief though voicing my forgiveness to my parents, to myself, and finally by making peace with God. My soul felt a lot lighter once I forgave—I lost the baggage of resenting, bitterness and self-pity. I now understood that forgiveness freely given is truly a gift to the giver—I felt new.

I think back and regret my actions as a drug abuser and criminal -- the people I’ve hurt, how I’ve affected the community. Today instead of taking, discouraging and using people -- I can do the opposite. I can care about, help and encourage others, be kind and decent—make a difference for the better; rejoin the “Brotherhood of Man.”

I’m especially grateful to Lorenn and Diane who taught all of us that caring makes a difference—as they showed by example.

...Waiawa State Correctional Facility, O’ahu, Hawaii; July 2005


click here to see a short video

My name is Larry K. Brown, Jr. I am 33 years old, and currently an inmate at Waiawa Correctional Facility participating in the Kash Box Program. I'm getting treatment to learn more about my addiction (crystal meth) and my criminal conduct, but most importantly to learn more about myself.

During my childhood and early adult years, forgiveness was a way to get back at someone. If someone did something to me, I would forgive them until they thought everything was alright, then I would turn around and do it back to them twice as bad. For me, forgiveness was a tool for retaliation.

On January 1, 1981, my dad mom and aunty all got shot. My dad and aunty died. My mom luckily survived. It was a house warming party my dad had thrown for our new house in Waialua.

The party started off well. Everyone was having a good time. Family, friends, all together, celebrating the new year to come. I remember sleeping on the parlor floor. Then all I heard was BANG.

I heard my mom screaming. I woke up and saw my dad laying on the floor. Then another BANG went off. That's when I got up and ran over to my dad. At that time, I thought the bang sounds were coming from the plastic bag bombs that my dad use to tie at the end of a strand of fireworks.

When I ran over to my dad, I thought he was sleeping. He was still alive and breathing at the time, so I tried shaking him to wake him up. He grabbed me in his arms and told me he loved me. I fell back asleep in his arms.

The next thing I remember was paramedics lifting me off of him. Then later on that morning, I found out my dad and aunty got shot and died, and that mom was in the hospital fighting for her life.

Since my father's death, I have felt nothing but hatred for the man who did this to me and my family. As a child, I carried this bitter anger and frustration through my adult life. My ultimate purpose for living was to meet up with this man someday and pay him back for the pain he had caused.

The feelings that I've been carrying with me throughout the years have caused one heartache after another, not only for myself but also for the people who love me. My negative thoughts led to negative behaviors, which led to crime and prison.

Today I consider myself lucky to be alive. I was caught up in a vicious cycle of hate that would have almost certainly resulted in death. I have been in the Kash Box program for almost a year and have taken full advantage of its purpose . It has given me the opportunity to tell my story and express my feelings. I have come to realize that the cycle of hate can be broken and that the power to do this lies within me.

Forgiveness is a virtue I have never processed until now. My desire is to finally be free of the hate that has prevented me from pursuing the life I was meant to live. Anger has been my greatest obstacle; forgiving the man who took my family from me may be the hardest thing that I will ever do.

...Waiawa State Correctional Facility; O’ahu, Hawaii; July 2005

Hawaii Forgiveness Project