Tuesday, October 9, 2001


Hawaii engineer,
civic leader ‘loved
every moment’ of life

By Pat Gee

Kaoru Nagai, a self-taught engineer and a civic leader who was named County Supervisor of the Year in 1979 while working for the Hawaii County Planning Department, has died at age 79.

Nagai died Wednesday of cancer at his Keaau home, said his wife, Yaeko Nagai.

Born in Olaa on the Big Island, he worked in the engineering department of the former Puna Sugar Co. in the 1940s and '50s, then went onto the Planning Department for the following 20 years. After retirement he was a part-time real estate agent for Ala Kai Realty, his wife said.

"He loved every moment of what he was doing. He was a very honest man, a very hard worker, a loving father and husband," she said.

Laurie Machida, a clerk who worked closely with Nagai while he was the planner in charge of subdivision applications, said he was very pleasant and "always liked to crack a joke."

"He was proudest of being selected county employee of the year," Machida said. "He was nominated by the Planning Department."

Nagai started working for the department in 1967 and retired in 1987, she said.

Lillian Matayoshi of Ala Kai Realty said Nagai was "very knowledgeable" about the zoning codes and was always willing to help other Realtors with information that he had learned as a planner. Although he was strict about following the codes, he was fair and flexible enough to make exceptions if they were minor, she said.

"He was a smart man, very down to earth," Matayoshi said.

Ernest Medeiros, broker in charge at Ala Kai, said Nagai liked developing the medium-size Kinai Subdivision off East Pilai Street because "it made homes very affordable for local people."

Nagai also was president and a director of the Puna Hongwanji Mission, statewide director for the Honpa Hongwanji of Hawaii and a member of the Big Island Buddhist Council and Layman's Association.

Richard Imai, past president of the Puna Hongwanji, said Nagai will be missed because he "gave so much to the church and community."

When Nagai became ill and was unable to serve out his term as president, "he still attended board meetings and tried to help the church in every way he could" when he felt well enough, Imai said.

Yaeko Nagai said her husband also was a Hawaii County water commissioner, an officer for the Keaau Village Association, a longtime director of the former Puna Federal Credit Union and a former member of the Hiroshima Kenjinkai and Hui Okinawa.

Nagai also is survived by daughters Althea Keiko Lerner of Maryland and Natalie Yoshiko Nagai of Honolulu; sister Tatsue Takatani of Waipahu; and brothers Hisashi Nagai of Honolulu, Sadayuki Nagai of Ohio and Ikuo Nagai of California.

Visitation will be from 3 to 4 p.m. Friday at Puna Hongwanji Mission, and service at 4 p.m. Casual attire and no flowers are requested. Borthwick Hawaii Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.

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