HELEN HIFUMI MORITA / 1913-2008
Taxi company owner set pace for women in transit
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As president of Charley's Taxi, Helen Hifumi Morita was among the first women leaders in the country's transportation industry.
Morita died Monday. She was 94.
Charley's is named for Charles S. Morita, her former husband, with whom she started the business in 1938. During the war, Helen Morita was more involved with the taxicab company than her husband because he was running the family's more profitable photography business, said Dale Evans, Morita's daughter and current president of Charley's.
The photography business ended with the war, but Helen Morita continued to run Charley's. Her husband became involved in other interests. And when the couple divorced in 1957, Helen got the taxi business in the divorce settlement, Evans said.
Back then, the business world was more male-dominated than today. But Charley's survived and thrived under Morita's leadership.
"She was a real fighter, she didn't back down," Evans said.
And she said her mother engendered those qualities in her children. "She would tell us things like, 'Never give up.'"
Evans said her mother had limited education. She quit school in the ninth grade to go to the Big Island to help an older sister. But she said her mother had good business instincts.
When her mother asked her to return to Hawaii in 1967 to help her with the business, Charley's had fewer than 50 cars, Evans said. At its peak, in 1975-76, Charley's fleet included 525 cars, she said.
Morita was also involved in the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Women's Society and for decades was a strong recruiter for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
She also volunteered twice per week at the Queen's Medical Center Auxiliary.
Morita is survived by sister Sueko Otsu; daughters Dale Evans and Momie Bradley; son Charles H. Morita; eight grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.
Services start at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Central Union Church's Atherton Chapel, followed by a reception. Viewing starts at 3 p.m.