WAYNE MIYAHIRA / 1944-2008
Leader helped spread Okinawan traditions
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Wayne Miyahira, a leader in the Okinawan community dedicated to perpetuating the culture, died Tuesday.
Miyahira, a Kaneohe resident, died of complications from liver failure at a family member's home in Wahiawa, daughter Lynn Miyahira said. He was 63.
"I would describe him as Mr. Uchinanchu Aloha," said Jane Serikaku, executive director of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. "Uchinanchu" is the Okinawan word for "Okinawan."
"He was a person that reached out to everyone and made everyone feel comfortable," Serikaku said. "He was such a warm, giving person."
Miyahira was born in Puunene, Maui, on Aug. 21, 1944, a descendent of Okinawan grandparents who arrived in Hawaii in 1912. He grew up on a sugar plantation and graduated from Baldwin High School.
A graduate of the University of Hawaii, Miyahira was drafted into the Army and married Patricia Akita Miyahira, who died in 1998.
He worked as a sales manager for the wholesale paper company Unisource Hawaii for 21 years and later at xpedx Hawaii until 2001.
During the 1980s, Miyahira served as president of Gaza Yonagusuku Doshikai, a social group connected to Gaza village in Okinawa.
"He just wanted Gaza people to be together. He always say, 'We have to be like a family,'" said club member Betsy Miyahira, 81, who is of no relation. "He was really a chubby guy -- jolly ol' Wayne."
In 1990, Miyahira became president of HUOA for one year. The same year, he served as vice chairman of the committee that organized the 90th anniversary of Okinawan immigration to Hawaii. The Okinawa prefecture government also named him a goodwill ambassador from Hawaii.
In 2002, Miyahira took the reins of HUOA as executive director for three years.
Lynn Miyahira said her father tried to show his two daughters the value of their heritage, enrolling them in Okinawan dance class at age 6.
"Even from that time, we knew that it was important to him that we understand not just the beauty of the culture, but how it creates a sense of identity," she said. "In retrospect I'm glad he did it."
Miyahira, a lover of shoyu pork, enjoyed doing the "kachashi," a type of freestyle Okinawan dance, she said.
He also was a key narrator of the "Hawaii Okinawa Today" series on 'Olelo Community Television since 1997. He narrated his last show in February.
Miyahira's community involvement also touched the Japanese community. He was elected president of the United Japanese Society last year. His term was slated to begin this July.
Besides daughter Lynn, Miyahira is survived by daughter Ann Yoshida, sister Jean Ige, brother Harry, two grandchildren, a niece and nephews.
Service will be held April 27 at the Hawaii Okinawa Center. Visitation begins at 5:30 p.m. with memorial services at 6:30.