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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Kane'ohe woman is fourth oldest in country at 112

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — Of the 288 million people in the United States, only three have lived longer than Ito Konno Kinase of Kane'ohe.

Ito Konno Kinase, 112, plays with great-grandson Timothy Leong, 2. She is on record as Hawai'i's oldest person.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The death of the nation's oldest person last week — Adelina Domingues was 114 — makes Kinase the fourth-oldest person in America at 112, according to the Gerontology Research Group of California, which helps authenticate ages. Kinase will be 113 on Dec. 31.

Kinase follows John McMorran, born June 19, 1889; Charlotte Benkner, born Nov. 16, 1889; and Hazel Luther, born Dec. 11, 1889.

McMorran of Michigan is the oldest documented American at 113. He was born six months before Kinase.

Kinase was surprised to learn she was the fourth-oldest person in the nation and the oldest in Hawai'i.

"I can't believe I'm that old," she said yesterday, her Japanese translated by daughter Joyce Iwamuro of Kane'ohe. "I can't believe I'm 112 and keep on living."

When Kinase was born, Benjamin Harrison was president, there were 42 states in the union and Hawai'i was a monarchy.

A naturalized citizen, Kinase has raised five children, outlived two husbands, survived a World War II internment camp, conquered cancer twice and helped raise her grandchildren.

She was a hard worker who endured adversity and triumphed, said Lily Zaima, a daughter in California.

She continually tried new things. At 90, Kinase rode a horse for the first time. At 100, she hiked Diamond Head. And at 80 years old, she tried marijuana.

"She just wants to experience life, trying different things that kept her young at heart," said Carol Zaima, Lily Zaima's daughter-in-law.

Kinase moved to the United States in 1916 after marrying a railroad worker from Pasco (now Lavey), Wash. The family later moved to Redmond, Ore., where they overcame prejudice through their outgoing nature, kindness and generosity, Lily Zaima said.

"She was very generous — not in the Japanese obligatory way, but in a giving way," Lily Zaima said.

Kinase passed on important values: work hard, love each other and never bring shame to the family, said Zaima, who wrote a book about her mother and was instrumental in getting her registered with the Gerontology Research Group.

The organization documents super-centenarians, people older than 110. Its records show 41 people in the world qualify. But the 2000 U.S. Census found hundreds more claiming to be that age.

California has 129 super-centenarians, Florida 145, New York 85 and Hawai'i has four — three women and one man, according to Census figures.

Kinase's family produced birth and marriage certificates from Japan and other pieces of information to complete the documentation process in the spring. Carol Zaima, who gathered the information, said she took on the project so Kinase might be recognized for her longevity.

"It was important to me personally that she and her life are acknowledged," she said of her grandmother-in-law.

Kinase is in excellent health despite failing eyesight and hearing, Iwamuro said. She moves through their home using two canes and enjoys weekly car rides. She sleeps a lot, Iwamuro said, attributing much of that to boredom.

Nancy Shimamoto, education consultant at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, said immigrants such as Kinase brought with them from Japan the values of perseverance, or gaman; persistence, or gambare; and acceptance of the inevitable, shikata ga nai. They endured hardship, adjusting to a new environment and labor-intensive work.

"They came with that inner strength that many of us these days don't have," Shimamoto said. That strength and strong family bonds probably contributed to Kinase's long, healthy life, she said.

"This is what she has given to them, so this is what they return to her."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.

Correction: Ito Konno Kinase of Kane'ohe is the fourth-oldest documented person in the United States, as authenticated by the Gerontology Research Group. She follows John McMorran, born June 19, 1889; Charlotte Benkner, born Nov. 16, 1889; and Hazel Luther, born Dec. 11, 1889. Kinase was incorrectly described as the third-oldest person in a previous version of this story.