Mourners pay their respects to a slain teacher


POSTED: Thursday, March 12, 2009

A line snaked from Nuuanu Avenue to a chapel last night as about 1,200 people came to pay their respects to the family of slain Waianae High School educator Asa Shimabukuro Yamashita. Some mourners lined up more than 2 1/2 hours before the service at Nuuanu Memorial Park & Mortuary.

;[Preview]    Many Attend Service For Slain Waianae Teacher

Familiar faces and strangers gathered at Nuuanu Memorial Park to remember Asa Yamashita as a loving wife, mother, friend and teacher.



The poignant outpouring of sympathy for Yamashita's husband, Bryan, and their two daughters, Katie, 7, and Tori, who turned 5 Monday, was also a celebration of the life of the 43-year-old woman who touched so many lives.

Yamashita, literacy coordinator and English Department head at Waianae, was fatally stabbed at the Ewa Beach Town Center last month in an apparent random attack.

Teachers Diana Agor and Gay Young waited for nearly an hour in line to get halfway to the chapel.

Yamashita had a “;natural warmth,”; Agor said, adding, “;You just felt embraced.”;

Yamashita always had a calm demeanor even with her daughters, Young said.

Agor also noted Bryan Yamashita's calm demeanor as he spoke on TV news not long after the slaying.

“;When I first heard the news, I was really distraught,”; she said. “;But what calmed me down was seeing Bryan. He helped me more than anyone to deal with it.”;

Mark Faildo, who dated Asa Yamashita while attending Farrington High School, said, “;I will always remember her as a great, great person. I cannot remember a time when she did anything that was not good in some way.”;

Yamashita's elementary school classmate Rose Kuniyoshi said she was shocked at the news and had to reread the paper to make sure it was her. Kuniyoshi recalled how in elementary school, “;she (Yamashita) was very smart, teacher's pet, very well liked. ... She was a very good person, too.”;

Bonnie Buccat and Nathalie Arios said they have known the Yamashitas since 1986, attending each other's weddings and kids' birthdays.

“;Asa taught me how to do sign language,”; Arios said. “;They just had adopted Katie from China. Because she wasn't speaking very well, Asa taught her sign language.”;

Arios used sign language for her own 6-month-old, who did not have any problems, and “;it worked wonders.”;

“;She just loves to teach and that was her passion,”; Arios said. “;She just passed it on.”;

A busload of teachers from Waianae and Nanakuli High School, where Bryan Yamashita taught, along with others, watched the services on a big screen in a second chapel that was opened for the overflow of mourners.