By: Donna Lynn Loo, Kauai RSVP
In reminiscing her forty years as an AmeriCorps Senior volunteer with Kauai RSVP, the Retired & Senior Program, Sakiko Okihara said “Yeah, that’s a looong time and I enjoyed every bit of it!” She recalls Lola Cruz, the Kekaha Senior Center President and Kuulei Takashima, Parks & Recreation staff, both being very instrumental in her time there at Kekaha Senior Center. An RSVP volunteer since 1980, Sakiko assisted with the American Cancer Society and America Reads program, but much of her volunteer service was with the center’s therapeutic outreach activities as well as the Kauai Economic Opportunity congregate meal program. It is there at Kekaha Senior Center that she and other members learned to play the ukulele. Even now, as a nonagenarian at 98 years, Sakiko vividly recollected traveling to Oahu to perform at the Ala Moana shopping center along with their well-known ukulele instructor, Charlie Kaneyama.
Therapeutic outreach was an activity she greatly adored. Each month they rode the bus from the center visiting care homes and hospital long term care residents, some of whom were her friends, while singing and playing the ukulele. Sakiko also enjoyed helping with the KEO congregate meals program where participants engaged in social activities and enjoyed a nutritious lunch together. Lola shared that Sakiko was the eldest active member at the center. She was highly regarded, considered a mentor who was very patient and always helpful in giving guidance.
Born in Makaweli, Sakiko attended Kekaha Elementary School and graduated from Waimea High School. She furthered her education for two years on Oahu to become a cafeteria manager and worked there for a short period until an opportunity arose for her to return to Kauai. After working for a year at Hanalei School, a job opened at her alma mater, Waimea High, where she spent the next thirty-five years as the cafeteria manager, until her retirement. Sakiko and her late husband, Kiyoichi, who retired as a cane haul truck driver for Kekaha Sugar Plantation, made their home in Kekaha. They raised two beautiful daughters, Amy Willman and Katie Hardwick, who blessed them with four grandchildren, Forrest, Travys, Laurien and Greg, and one great grandchild, Khat.
Sakiko highly recommends volunteering and joining the senior center. She enjoyed the company of the senior center members and learned crafts like yarn and bead lei making as well as crocheting and quilting blankets that were donated to care homes and senior craft fairs. She will miss the senior center activities, especially the members, as she now resides at the Kauai Care Center in Waimea. Sakiko appreciates being very well taken care of by the staff, loves the food, playing Bingo and other activities, “It’s like a hotel, I feel like a queen!”, she exclaimed.
While expressing our appreciation for Sakiko’s milestone of forty years with RSVP, she insists thanks go to us for years of enjoyment, attending the annual Recognition luncheon and gaining new skills, instead of being idle at home. Her highlights of volunteering include fond memories of singing, playing the ukulele at community events and especially engaging in therapeutic outreach with residents at hospitals and care homes.
Sakiko, the Kauai RSVP and the Agency on Elderly Affairs staff, commend your outstanding dedication and commitment of forty years, the most years of service ever served by a single volunteer in the history of the program. May your spunky enthusiasm, positive attitude and words of wisdom continue to inspire and bring joy to those around you. Thank you and may you cherish those great memories of sharing your time and talent while serving our community.