Legislator made mark in Kalihi, Okinawa
Akira Sakima / 1918-2007
Former state Rep. Akira Sakima received many honors for his decades of service to the Kalihi Valley community, but he achieved legendary status in Okinawa for contributions to the homeland of his parents.
"He was well respected in Okinawa. He was still being honored as the 'goat uncle,'" said Wayne Miyahira of the United Okinawan Association of Hawaii. The title referred to a post-World War II relief effort in which the young Kalihi pig farmer rode herd on 600 milking goats shipped to the war-torn country. He returned in 1960 with a goodwill mission of Hawaii legislators, and in 1963 as one of several agricultural experts invited by the U.S. Army to help develop Okinawa's agricultural industry. In 2000, the centennial of Okinawan immigration to Hawaii, Sakima was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosetta by the Japanese government for fostering good relations between nations.
Sakima, 89, died April 6 in Honolulu.
He grew up in Kalihi Valley, where his family raised pigs, and was later elected to represent the district in the state House of Representatives from 1959 to 1976.
He continued to be a resource and adviser for his successors, said former state Rep. Dennis Arakaki. "I considered him a mentor. Not just me, but a lot of people went to him for advice on politics and issues in the district. He was very encouraging to younger people."
"One of his main interests was education," said Arakaki. Sakima was chairman of the House Education and Higher Education committees. After leaving the Legislature, he was elected to the state Board of Education and to the 1978 state Constitutional Convention.
He was on the board of Kokua Kalihi Valley for 30 years, dating back to when its health and social service programs were being started, said former executive director Joris Watland.
"He was kind of the spirit of the board and the community. The recreation center in Kalihi Valley is there because Akira was there, setting aside state money even though it is a city project," Watland said.
In 2000, Kalihi community organizations established the Akira Sakima Endowment Fund with the Kalihi Valley Community Foundation to endow programs for children and families. Sakima had served on the boards of the Kalihi Palama Community Council, the Susannah Wesley Community Center and Kalihi YMCA.
He was active in the United Okinawan Association of Hawaii, which honored him as 1985 "Uchinanchu of the Year" for service to the community and perpetuating the Okinawan culture.
Sakima, whose hog farm was displaced to Waianae with the construction of Likelike Highway, organized the Island Pork Producers Co-op to seek fair prices, and served as manager of the organization in the 1950s. He later joined International Savings and Loan and became manager of the Kalihi branch.
He was a minister and leader of the Hawaii Community of Christ church in Kalihi for several years.
"He was a very simple, very humble man," said Watland. "He never saw himself as a person with position and power. He was there to serve the community, an unselfish person."
Watland announced Sakima's death to the Kalihi Neighborhood Board last week. "I told them we just lost one of the greatest people of the last century for Kalihi."
A memorial service will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 29 at the Hawaii Okinawa Center in Waipahu. Friends may call after 5 p.m. The family requests no flowers.
He is survived by wife Jane; son Howard of Elk Grove, Calif.; daughter Ellen Higa; brothers Kaoru, Kogoro and Yatsugi; sister Tomiko Miyashiro; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.