Samoan-American actor Al Harrington, best known for his portrayal of Detective Ben Kokua in Hawaii Five-0, has died. Harrington passed away in a hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday, Sept. 21 after he suffered a serious stroke the week prior, his family confirmed to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He was 85.
Separately confirming her husband's passing in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Harrington's wife, Rosa Harrington, told the outlet that her husband "was truly a gift from God." She remembered Harrington as "a noble, compassionate, patient and gentle man with a witty sense of humor and a larger-than-life laugh," which she said "will echo in my heart until we are reunited." She added that Harrington "was generous, quick to forgive, a hard worker, a provider and always ready to talk-story."
"He loved his community and even more, his culture. It was his greatest honor to represent his people on-screen, and to serve them off-screen," she continued. "To know him was to feel seen, loved, safe and welcomed. As an Icon for Hawai'i, our islands and her people are mourning his loss."
Born Tausau Ta'a in American Samoa in 1935, Harrington was raised by his maternal grandmother until he moved to Honolulu with his mother at age 3. After graduating from high school in 1954, Harrington went on to study at both Menlo College and Stanford University, where he played football and earned a degree in history. He later returned to Hawaii and taught at the University of Hawaii and worked as a professional entertainer in Waikiki.
Harrington joined the Hawaii Five-0 cast in 1972, replacing original cast member Gilbert 'Zulu' Kauhi as the Polynesian member of the Five-0 team, though he had appeared on the show in various roles since 1969. He starred as Detective Ben Kokua on the CBS television series for three years until 1975, during which he earned an international following. He later joined the 2010 Hawaii Five-O reboot in a recurring role as Mamo Kahike, a surf shop owner and bus driver.
Harrington's other credits include Magnum, P.I., Scrubs, and The Byrds of Paradise. He also appeared in the TV series Charlie's Angels in 1977, worked on The Jeffersons, and made an appearance in the Tom Hanks-starring film Forrest Gump. In 2018, he received the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. Harrington is survived by his wife, Rosa, sons Alema and Tau, daughters Summer Harrington and Cassi Harrington Palmer, and several grandchildren.