• Photo gallery: Kupuna
By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer
With the help of her cane, Shige Ikenaga, 94, shuffled her way to the front of a room to welcome more than 30 senior citizens with a cheerful, "Alooooooha!"
The seniors were participating in an elderly outreach ministry at Makiki Christian Church, where Ikenaga has volunteered for more than 20 years. The ministry encourages seniors to stay active and socialize, and offers them a time to exercise, sing and eat together.
"I like to help them out and talk to them," said Ikenaga, wearing a pink floral blouse as bright as her presence. "That's what they want, conversation and fellowship. When they smile and they're happy, it makes me feel good."
In celebration of Older Americans Month, The Advertiser asked readers to tell us about kupuna who have made a difference in their lives or in the lives of others. Lori Nakamura, 38, of Mililani, wrote to us about Ikenaga.
"My grandma is a faithful servant of God," Nakamura wrote. "Church has been the center of her life and has given her the strength to go on after losing her husband 24 years ago and going through 11 surgeries."
Ikenaga, who is healthy and strong enough to walk on her own to church, volunteers there Wednesdays through Fridays — in addition to going to Bible study on Fridays and attending services on Sundays.
Ikenaga's volunteer duties vary, but she is most passionate about her work with the elderly outreach ministry called Nozomi No Kai, or Hope Fellowship, which sometimes serves up to 60 senior citizens. She socializes with participants and enjoys saying prayers for them and blessing their lunch meals.
"She is just warm, caring and she welcomes people," said Julie Ishioka, co-coordinator of Nozomi No Kai. "She has a very welcoming attitude."
Ikenaga has helped the ministry for 24 years, making her its longest and oldest volunteer.
"She's just so sociable," said Ikenaga's daughter, Pat Nakamura, 67, of Pearl City. "She can reach out to people so easily."
When Ikenaga isn't volunteering at the church, she keeps herself busy by cross-stitching pillow cases and table cloths, and crocheting kitchen hand towels. Her sewing creations are often gifts to her family — two children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Ikenaga is also a big fan of shows like "Jeopardy" and Korean dramas, and she enjoys traveling. She celebrated her birthday in Vegas last month and is preparing for a trip to Seattle next month.
"If you keep yourself active, you'll be a more happy person," Ikenaga advises her peers.
Ikenaga is determined to live an independent life, her family said. She lives on her own, does her laundry, shops for her own foods and cooks for herself.
"Grandma still makes her special dishes, like nishime, somen salad and seikihan for the family," Lori Nakamura said. "Can you imagine my grandma making a big pot to feed all of us? I don't even cook for myself."
Ikenaga said people often ask her what her secret is for living a long, happy life.
"I tell them not to worry," she said. "Leave everything up to the Lord and he'll take care of it."
8 KūPUNA UP FOR HONORS
Eight kupuna statewide will be honored for their community service at a recognition ceremony and luncheon Thursday at Washington Place, presented by the Executive Office on Aging and the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs.
"While each honoree is noteworthy of recognition, they are symbolic of the tremendous manpower potential our older Americans possess," said Anne Holton, member of the recognition and awards committee.
• Larry D. Carter, 71, of Pukalani. Activities include: Mayor's Task Force on Health, president of the Board of Directors for Mediation Services of Maui, chair of the Maui Geriatric Mental Health Hui, participant and coach in several sports, and Maui AgeWave.
• June Kaaihue, 71, of Lahaina. Activities include: Na Kupuna Ohana Serenaders and Dancers, Salvation Army Women's Home League, Na Kupuna O Maui, Lahaina Town Action Committee, Community Voices Project, Aging with Aloha Coalition, Waiola Church, Lahaina Hongwanji Mission and Mayor's Task Force on Health.
• Dr. Arnulfo B. Diaz, 66, of Kapa'a. Activities include: Kaua'i Filipino Community Council, Kaua'i Filipino Chamber of Commerce, the Wilcox Memorial Hospital board of directors, Kaua'i Pangasinan Association, Miss Kaua'i Filipina Pageant, Immaculate Conception Filipino Catholic Club, Kaua'i Heart Association and the Hawai'i Heart Association.
• Janice S. Bond, 67, of Lihu'e. Activities include: consultant for Creative Memories Scrapbooking, marriage license agent, Visitor Aloha Society, American Cancer Society, Arthritis Association, promotion of reading with the First Lady's Read for 2002, United We Read and Read to Me Programs, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
• Charles Clark, 81, of Kailua. Activities include: presenter to senior groups, retiree associations, civic organizations and college classes to inform people how to detect Medicare and Medicaid fraud, abuse, errors and how to protect themselves from becoming victimized; founder and national president of Radiated Veterans of America.
• Michiko Motooka, 80, of Honolulu. Activities include: Project Dana (volunteer for more than 20 years), Happy Strummers, Moiliili Hongwanji preschool, Maunalani Nursing Home and Japanese interpreter.
• Sarah K. Togashi, 73, of Kea'au. Activities include: Puna Hongwanji Church, Lions Club, New Hope Church, Niigata Kenjin Kai Club, Salvation Army, Waiakea High School Athletics, Volcano Community Church, president of Keaau Senior Club, and the Keaau Nutrition Program.
• Ah Vin "Jacob" Zane, 77, of Kapa'au. Activities include: president of Kohala Senior Club, Senior Choir, founder of Senior Bowling Club, Kohala Senior Softball Team, Tong Wo Society, Kohala Lions Club, Kohala National Guard Alumni and Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Readers wrote us with stories of kupuna who have made a difference in their lives or in the lives of others:
"The desire to work in order to gain self-improvement has led Yvonne E. Ajimura's tremendous efforts to give back to the community where she has been embraced and nurtured throughout her life. She has been a member of the Blood Bank's Century Club, and an office clerical volunteer at Maluhia Adult Day Health Center. ... Yvonne absolutely reflects the true process of successful aging that is well illustrated by her high level of engagement with life and community."
— Tuechan T. Nguyen, licensed social worker at Maluhia Adult Day Health Center
"Beverly Payne can still sing her Roosevelt alma mater (and often does), takes care of her granddaughter, volunteers with The Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary for the past 40 years and makes me a better person for knowing her."
— Melissa Lauer, 49, of Wai'anae
"Eloise Monsarrat has been my mentor since 1998 and is one of the people responsible in supporting me in starting the first service dog training program in Hawai'i, Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs. ... Eloise is getting on in years and now having health issues, but still gets out to do her therapy dog work."
— Susan Luehrs, 60, of Hale'iwa
"Al Sarceda has dedicated his retirement days to making the world a better place. ... He wakes up early every day so he can serve breakfast at the USO. Whenever troops are coming home, he volunteers his time to help out at the welcome home celebrations. His afternoons are spent at Ko Olina beach where he mixes a little bit of exercise with a little bit of pollution control — strolling the beach and picking up any debris that he may find."
— Tracy Takahashi, 33, of Kapolei
"I am submitting a story about my mother, Gladys Murakami, who is an optimistic 86-year-old. ... Of her three daughters, two of us have disabilities — one with an intellectual disability and the other with a physical disability. She taught all of us how to handle our weaknesses through education, a 'can-do' attitude and compassion for others. We never felt sorry for ourselves because we weren't made to feel like a 'poor thing.' ... I hope to be like my Mom. She has taught all of us through her example. She makes every day count with grace."
— Lynn Murakami-Akatsuka, 56, of Kane'ohe