Boxer-turned-architect Ed Murayama
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
By embracing a "no-guts, no-glory" attitude, high-school dropout Edwin "Ed" Takeshi Murayama became an accomplished boxer to help pay off a family debt, a successful architect who designed several landmark buildings in Hawai'i, and a Las Vegas jackpot winner.
The Maui native of Pu'ukoli'i's sugar plantation camp above Ka'anapali and founding partner of the architecture firm Murayama, Kotake, Nunokawa and Associates died Wednesday at Kuakini Hospital at age 88.
Longtime Hawai'i Boxing Commission member Bobby Lee said his best friend of 71 years should be remembered for educating himself and leaving a legacy of buildings on O'ahu and Maui that includes the Lahaina Civic Center, host site of the Maui Invitational college basketball tournament.
"His greatness was his determination," Lee said.
"Ed educated himself to become a draftsman through correspondence courses while working on the plantation and boxing," Lee said. "I think he was the first person to get an architect license in Hawai'i without going to college."
Randolph "Randy" Murayama said his father took 3,000 hours of correspondence courses between 1940 and 1945 to become a draftsman. He went on to earn his high school equivalency degree by attending night school at McKinley High and took a few courses at the University of Hawai'i before earning his architecture license in 1963 by passing a 10-part exam.
And he did it while working full time to support a family. "He passed it through pure perseverance," Randy Murayama recalled.
Ed Murayama opened his firm in 1964 and his first paying job was designing the Jikoen Temple on Likelike Highway, his son said.
Randy Murayama said one of his father's notable early assignments was planning, researching and designing "Sumiya," a shogun-style mansion in Cuernavaca, Mexico, for the late Woolworth fortune heiress Barbara Hutton in the late 1950s. At the time, Ed Murayama was head draftsman for architect Albert Ives.
"There was a volcano in the background and a moat around it, so it looked like a Japanese castle with Mount Fuji in the background," Randy Murayama said of the mansion, which Hutton reportedly kept for three years and used only two weeks each year during that time.
Ed Murayama mostly designed high-end residential homes.
Among the public structures he designed locally are Ka'anapali Alii, a luxury condominium; Kaahumanu Hale (Circuit Court) at 777 Punchbowl St. with Harry Miyachi; Kaua'i Community College; and the rebuilt interior of the Kawaiaha'o building at Mid-Pacific Institute.
Murayama retired in 1990, leaving partners Richard Kotake and Michael Nunokawa to run the firm.
As the eldest of eight children, Murayama was forced to work at an early age on Pu'ukoli'i, the largest plantation on Maui, to help support the family.
His fisherman father had incurred a $6,000 debt that Ed and brother Frank Sadamu Murayama paid off in 1945 by earning extra money in distinctly different ways.
Much of Ed's share came from boxing while Frank ran a gambling house, Randy Murayama said.
Ed Murayama dropped out of Lahainaluna High in 1935 and started boxing the next year. He and Lee were teammates on the powerful Pioneer Mill amateur boxing team.
Murayama was a three-time Maui amateur flyweight champion and the island's No. 1 bantamweight in 1941. He had 90 fights, 10 as a pro.
Murayama had three memorable fights against Olowalu, Maui, native Salvador "Dado" Marino, who on Aug. 1, 1950, at age 35 became Hawai'i's first professional boxing champion by winning the flyweight crown before 10,763 fans at Honolulu Stadium.
Lee recalled the last meeting between the two in 1940 for the AAU flyweight title at the Civic Auditorium. "It was one of the lousiest fights I ever saw," Lee said, "because Dado was smart and stayed away from Ed and got the decision."
One of the best tributes to Murayama came in an off-handed manner, Lee said.
"He was doing a job on Maui and this head honcho engineer asked him what his punch-drunk brother was doing," Lee said. "Ed didn't say anything but when the job was finished, he told him he was the punch-drunk brother. The guy couldn't believe the fighter and the architect were the same person."
Vacationing eight to 10 times a year in Las Vegas was one of Murayama's favorite pastimes, and on Oct. 27, 2000, he hit a big one when a sequence royal flush at what was then known as Binion's Horseshoe in Downtown Vegas earned him a $123,980 video poker payoff.
His father's favorite credo, "no guts, no glory" underscored a charming personality, said Randy Murayama. "He was an inspiration for a lot of us," Murayama said.
Ed Murayama is survived by Shirley, his wife of 65 years; sons Randolph and Curtis; daughters Susan Wakukawa and Gayle Izaki; brothers Milton of California, and Dalton of Texas; sisters Nancy Tateyama of California, Futaba Higuchi of Lahaina, and Ann Kashiwa of Seattle; and seven grandchildren, one of whom is a former Cherry Blossom queen.
A private memorial service will be held 4 p.m. Friday at Hosoi Garden Mortuary.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.