Saturday, October 6, 2001

Woodworker believed in
giving back to life

MASAICHI IMOTO / 1903-2001


By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Masaichi Imoto, a humble woodworker who amassed a fortune investing in stocks, believed strongly in giving back to those who helped him.

So when he died Sept. 23 at age 98, Imoto left a $1 million trust to the Mid-Pacific Institute, the school he believed helped shape him.

"Mid-Pacific Institute was always on his mind. He just really thought that he owed so much to the school," said Pat Garvey, the school's controller.

Mid-Pacific is holding a memorial service for Imoto at the school's Bakken Auditorium at 10 a.m. today.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Imoto enrolled at the school as a freshman in 1921 when he was 18. Working his way through school, he graduated four years later as salutatorian of his class.

After a brief time studying as a teacher and working for a small business, Imoto returned to the Manoa campus in 1928 as assistant shop manager at the Martin Craft Shop.

It was there that he taught several generations of Mid-Pacific students to design and finish furniture that was sold to Honolulu families.

Former school President Les Singcade described Imoto as "a man who helped students to appreciate creative individuality by his example in the shop and on the work field."

Imoto remained active in Mid-Pacific's affairs after his retirement, serving as investment counselor for the institution's alumni association board until his death.

Imoto began his stock portfolio early in life with a $250 investment in Waialua Sugar. Over the years, the portfolio grew steadily into the seven figures.

Following retirement, Imoto pursued real estate and other investment interests but never lost sight of his roots.

"Everything I am I owe to the school," he said in 1991 when he announced his gift to the school.

"Mid-Pacific gave me a scholarship, and now I give back to the school, a circle of life."

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