Honpa Hongwanji
Mission to honor
Living Treasures
of Hawaii

Star-Bulletin staff

Six islanders who have invested their lifetimes in educational, cultural, artistic and volunteer endeavors will be honored Friday as Living Treasures of Hawaii in an annual awards program of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.

They join the ranks of 130 people who were recognized in the past 27 years because they have "strengthened the fabric of our existence in this world with their uncompromising dedication to what is good, real and true," said Honpa Hongwanji Bishop Chikai Yosemori.

About 500 family, friends and supporters are expected at the banquet at the Hawai'i Convention Center to applaud Beebe Freitas, Albert H. Miyasato, Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi, Mary Lou Kekuewa, Margaret Y. Oda and Ted T. Tsukiyama.

Yosemori said the recognition program is rooted in the beliefs of the state's largest Buddhist organization. "Mahayana Buddhism is not only thinking about ourselves, but trying to help people around us. We place ourselves in the position of another.

"We like to recognize the people who contribute to Hawaii's culture," he said. "Most of the people honored in the past 27 years are not Buddhist."

The program is modeled after the Living National Treasures of Japan honors, which are bestowed by the Japanese government. Honolulu businessman Paul Yamanaka first proposed the idea in 1976, and it was implemented by former Hongwanji Bishop Yoshiaki Fujitani.

"It started with a certificate at the church, and it has grown in popularity and prestige," said Selection Committee member Ko Miyataki. "Now we get a lot of nominations from the community."

The temple marked the 25th anniversary of the program with publication of a book containing the biographies of the first 123 awardees. The first to be chosen was Charles Kenn, a scholar of Japanese ancestry who became an authority on Hawaiian history and language.

Miyataki said what the committee looks for is "someone with implications for the next generation, who carries on values and a philosophy that will be extended to the next generation.

"Many of these people are reluctant, are shocked that they were chosen," she said. "It is not as if they were a president or a CEO. It's not because of their positions, but their exemplary gifts, because they are role models."




Beatrice Freitas

Beatrice "Beebe" Freitas is associate artistic director of the Hawaii Opera Theatre, where she has been involved in productions for more than 20 years. A keyboard musician trained at Juilliard School of Music, she has been accompanist for conductor Leonard Bernstein and soloists including David Schifrin and Yo Yo Ma. She frequently appears with the Honolulu Symphony and as accompanist for chorus and opera workshops, and is organist every Sunday at First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu.


Mary Lou Kekuewa

Mary Lou Kekuewa has helped keep alive the ancient Hawaiian tradition of feather crafts, making leis, kahilis and capes displayed in many collections, island festivals, churches and hotels. She has taught the craft for 30 years at Bishop Museum and island schools, as well as in workshops throughout the Asia-Pacific region. She is the author of "Feather Lei as an Art."


Albert H. Miyasato

Albert H. Miyasato topped his 23 years with the state Department of Education as deputy school superintendent before becoming administrative aide to former Gov. George Ariyoshi. He was hired as educational consultant by the Saudi Arabian government in the 1980s, and was Japanese language specialist and interpreter for the Commander in Chief of the Pacific until 1996. He is an adviser to the United Japanese Society, former head of the Hawaii United Okinawan Association and recently has worked to save the Japanese Cultural Center. He has been active at Honpa Hongwanji Mission for nearly 50 years.


Margaret Y. Oda

Margaret Y. Oda retired as Honolulu district superintendent after nearly 40 years as teacher and administrator in the state public schools only to continue a career in community service. She is chairwoman of the Kuakini Health System board of directors and chairwoman of a committee developing the Pacific Buddhist Academy, which will open this year. She is chairwoman of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii and of the Japanese Women's Society of Honolulu, and vice chairwoman of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.


Ted T. Tsukiyama

Ted T. Tsukiyama, an attorney, has served as an arbitrator in labor contract disputes for more than 40 years and is on the Hawaii Supreme Court's bar examining committee and mediation and arbitration panels. He is the historian for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence School veterans with whom he served in World War II. He is oral history coordinator for the Japanese Cultural Center and has held numerous positions in local and national bonsai associations.


Masaru Yokouchi

Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi, a Maui developer, was appointed by then-Gov. John Burns as the first chairman of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, serving at a time when Hawaii became the first state to establish a program to acquire art for public buildings. He led foundation efforts to support authentic Hawaiian arts and helped establish the Artist-in-the-Schools program. He was a driving force in founding the Maui Community Arts & Cultural Center.

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