By Lea Kei, Kīhei
How special is my father… when I look into his eyes, I see 97 years of love, life and history.
On Feb. 22, 97 years ago, the sugar plantation town of Kohala, where Kohala Kim Chee came from, welcomed Mamoru Sakamoto. The first son of Kenjiro and Katsu Sakamoto was born in a house behind Bamboo Restaurant, formerly Takata Store, in Hawi. His parents and Uncle Goichi operated a store and theater where the pineapple cannery existed. It was fun to see Uncle Goichi driving a Diamond T to Mahukona Harbor and hanging out around the store.
After graduating from Kohala High School, my father was employed at the sugar plantation until it closed in 1975. Though just 5 feet, 2 inches, he stood tall being a chauffeur, bartender, hunter and fisherman, as well as an active member of The Young Farmers.
On June 7, 1947, he married Akimi Yoneda and three children blossomed with me being the first-born.
A resident of the pineapple cannery wanted to know the history of the cannery and presented a list of questions. My interview with Dad this month revealed how amazing his memory is, like remembering the grade school he attended and names of his classmates and teachers. He loves to talk story about the days of no refrigerators, no color TV, as well as the family history of his cousin who was killed in Italy in 1945 and received the purple heart medal.