In this moving Q&A, UH donor Edward Llano makes us smile with recollections of the childhood love of western movies that led to life-changing journeys to Hawai‘i. We also grieve with him as he recalls his father’s murder and speaks about honoring the determined detective who brought justice to the family. And we celebrate the power of love, as Eddie and his wife lay the bricks for a future together in the special place that feels like home.
You’ve lived in New York almost your whole life. How did your relationship with UH begin?
My family immigrated to the United States from Cuba when I was eight. Growing up in New York City, I watched a lot of western movies on TV and developed a fascination with the west. I asked my third-grade teacher to show me on a map where the west was, because that’s where all the great stories were happening. He showed me that the furthest west I could travel in this country was Hawai‘i, so I was determined to visit someday. Even when I learned later that the cowboy stories on TV weren’t real, I thought of Hawai‘i as an adventure.
In 1984 I made my first visit, and I have been back about 25 times in the years since. I have more friends in Hawai‘i than I do in New York now, and somehow I identify with the culture here. My wife and I came here for our honeymoon, and now she can’t wait to move here one day. We are proud New Yorkers, but we are in love with O‘ahu. This is where we belong.
Why do you participate in the Legacy Path program?
The University of Hawai‘i is probably the best value in the nation for a good education. I’ve always supported UH because although the logistics made it impossible for me to attend as a student, it was my dream to come to UH.
My father was murdered in his own apartment in 2012, and it wasn’t until 2016 that a New York City police detective named Bruce Koch solved the case. He took an interest because it was such a sad story—my father would have been 90 in two months, and he was a pillar of his community. Thanks to detective Koch, the perpetrators were arrested by the FBI and charged in federal court.
My father had practiced law in Cuba; now I honor him and Koch with bricks in the Legacy Circle, which is right across the street from the UH law library. I have also purchased Legacy Bricks for my sister and me. My wife and I added bricks that say “Eddy loves Alina” and “Alina loves Eddy.”
What does it mean to the people in your family who have been honored with bricks?
I couldn’t think of a better place to honor my family than the Legacy Path at UH Mānoa. We wanted something that would outlive us and our names, and now they are permanently engraved at UHM.
My father, my sister, my wife, and detective Koch are immortalized in a special place I’ve loved since I was a child. My wife is a diplomat at the United Nations. Her dad is a lawyer at the World Court in The Hague. We plan to purchase more bricks so we can have all our family names close to the law library.
We’ve always felt as a family that it’s better to give than to receive. It gives us all great pleasure to contribute in this way, and there is no better place.Learn About Legacy Bricks