Monday, December 20, 1999

Weight lifter,
mentor Masayoshi
Yogi dies

Yogi, 67, was a dentist by
profession, but his heart was
in weight lifting and training

By Treena Shapiro


Yaemi Yogi said her neighbors never complained about the noise of weights dropping in her garage.

Her husband, Masayoshi Nelson Yogi, a National Champion Olympic weight-lifter, had outfitted the garage with a gym where he coached hundreds of weight lifters for more than 20 years. He produced several National Champions, as well as two-time Olympian Vernon Patao.

Yogi, 67, died on Dec. 17 at his home in Kahului, Maui. According to his wife, he was still lifting weights. "He trained with the boys and he was doing a lot of the actual training himself," she said.

Yogi was born Feb. 7, 1932, in Haiku, Maui. He served in the Navy, and after his discharge in 1956, he attended the University of Illinois School of Dentistry.

He returned to Maui after his graduation in 1960 and opened his own practice in Wailuku.

"He enjoyed dentistry, but his weight lifting was his great love," his wife said. "Weight lifting was his second life. It was very important to him and he really enjoyed training these boys in weight lifting."

Although none of his family shared his passion for lifting, he had lots of boys to share it with, she said.

One of those boys, who grew up to be a firefighter at the Kahului fire station, remembers Yogi as something greater than a mentor. "He was my dentist, my friend, my coach, my dad," Patao said. "He made me who I am."

Patao met Yogi 15 years ago when he followed his older brother Val to Yogi's gym. "He (Yogi) coaches all kinds of people for football and Olympic-style lifting." Patao was 14 at the time.

Although Yogi never made it to the Olympics himself, his coaching helped Patao make the Olympic weight-lifting team twice.

"There's no way I would have made it this far without his advice, help, coaching," Patao said.

But making the Olympic team wasn't the highlight of their friendship. "That was icing on the cake, secondary," Patao said.

Yogi inspired him to work hard and sacrifice, and gave him the skills to go on in life, he said. "He definitely had one of the biggest hearts I know."

Yogi is survived by his wife Yaemi; daughter Kathy Mayo; mother Umeto, brother Kenji; sisters Jennie Nakamoto, Charlotte Edwards and Alice Sasaki; grandson Jim Beckmeyer and numerous nieces and nephews.

Services over ashes will be held Wednesday at Borthwick Norman's Mortuary. Visitation begins at 4 p.m. A celebration of life will begin at 5 p.m. Aloha attire is requested.

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