Hiroto "Hiro" Hirashima / 1910-2007
Bowler knocked down pins and racial barriers
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The first time Hiroto "Hiro" Hirashima took island nisei bowling teams to a national tournament, they were pioneers. It was 1954, four years after the American Bowling Congress abandoned its "Caucasians only" membership rule.
When he made his last appearance at the national board of directors meeting in 2002, he was greeted as a grand old man of the sport. Hirashima was the first minority member elected to the board of directors of the American Bowling Congress -- now the U.S. Bowling Congress -- and was named to the organization's Hall of Fame in 1995 for his efforts to integrate the organization.
Hirashima, 97, died Nov. 23 in Honolulu.
In 1999 he was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, one of only two bowlers to be recognized. He retired as a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service after 30 years, but he never retired from bowling, said his daughter Joan Sato.
"He was still competing in his 70s and bowled into his early 80s. He was on the national board and went to all their meetings. He looked forward to those trips."
He was executive director of the Oahu Bowling Association for 35 years. The association paid tribute to Hirashima in its 2006 yearbook of individual scores and tournaments.
"He's the one who put Hawaii on the map, first one from Hawaii on the Bowling Hall of Fame and a lifelong director of the American Bowling Congress," said Executive Director Art Machado.
"A lot of things we do locally are things he put together," Machado said. The association organizes tournaments, coordinates leagues, presents workshops and youth programs, and assists in fundraisers.
"He was an outstanding bowler. He would take on anyone who thought they were good," said Machado.
Hirashima was born in Honolulu and graduated from McKinley High School.
He is survived by daughter Joan Sato, granddaughters Sheri Sato and Laura Liebling, and two great-grandchildren.
Private services were held.