As a 100th Infantry Battalion soldier and a participant in Nisei veterans activities on Maui, Stanley Izumigawa was not an “original.”
He was a replacement for the 100th — part of the group that arrived in Europe between the battles at Monte Cassino and Anzio in Italy in the spring of 1944. And, he wasn’t actively involved in the veterans clubs or the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Wailuku until he attended the 100th’s golden anniversary reunion in Honolulu in 1992.
But once he got involved, the recipient of a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster was all in.
And in the later years of his life, he was an original to many who encountered this Nisei man — retired from a career as an educator, wearing a bandana to keep his long hair in place as he pitched in at workdays at the NVMC campus or headed to the ocean to windsurf.
Stanley Yutaka Izumigawa died April 23 at the age of 89.
One of the speakers at his May 10 memorial service, called “Last Visit With Stan,” was Kathy Platt, a friend of his daughter, Jill Ross.
“She said my dad always wore a tie to work,” Ross said. “He was the only one who wore a tie to work, and when he retired, ‘he turned into a hippie.’”
“Work” was at schools on the Big Island, where he met his wife, Fujie; on O‘ahu, where he trained to become an administrator; and on Maui, as a teacher and principal at Këökea, Waihe‘e, Kamehameha III and Wailuku elementary schools, retiring in 1984.
Over the next 30 years, he would get involved in kayaking, which led to windsurfing. He would maintain trails with the state’s Nä Ala Hele program (to “give back” to Haleakalä for the hunting he had enjoyed there in his younger years, he said in an oral history); and carrying signs, Ross recalls, at demonstrations seeking restoration of flow for Nä Wai ‘Ehä (The Four Great Waters) of the Waihe‘e, ‘Ïao, Waiehu and Waikapü rivers and streams.
And, he would get deeply involved in the NVMC and the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans clubs on Maui.
With financial gifts that topped $50,000 each, he and 13 other donors to the capital campaign earned plaques in their honor on the NVMC campus. Izumigawa’s plaque is on the pavilion floor above the Education Center.
Built against a hillside, the Education Center — the second and final phase of construction — celebrated its grand opening April 13, 2013. The pavilion is on the same level as the Phase One courtyard and the buildings housing Kansha Preschool and Maui Adult Day Care Centers’ Ocean View facility. In the opposite direction are sweeping views of the ocean, portions of Maui’s north shore and central valley, and Haleakalä.
Izumigawa, who joined the NVMC board in 2003, also contributed physically, turning out for the quarterly campus workdays and other events, and by sharing his experiences with students and at other venues.
NVMC board member David Fukuda said Izumigawa was always willing, “more than any of us is aware of,” to speak to school groups anytime a veteran was requested. Izumigawa was among the veterans who developed a relationship with students in teacher Jennifer Suzuki’s language arts classes at Maui Waena Intermediate School several years ago. Suzuki and several of the students — some now graduated from high school — attended his service in May at the NVMC.
Izumigawa also was president of both the 100th and 442nd veterans clubs.
Stanley Izumigawa, who was born and raised in Ulumalu in East Maui, was 19 years old when he arrived in Italy as a replacement. He was assigned to the 100th’s A Company after basic training with L Company of the 442nd at Camp Shelby. The men he joined in Italy were already older than the average soldier of the time — the average age of the 100th soldier while in training at Camp Shelby in 1943 was 24.
Years later, Izumigawa would find himself in another replacement situation, because by the time he joined what was then known as Club 100, many of the veterans had already put in time as club officers.
“So, many thought, ‘Ah, new blood!’” his daughter Jill Ross said.
One of the veterans who could then step back was Masao Sato, a Club 100 stalwart for decades, who passed away in 2012 at age 96. Among Sato’s many contributions was to file “news” items from Maui for Club 100’s Puka Puka Parade newsletter. Izumigawa inherited that assignment.
“He was just always looking out for not only the vets but the [Maui’s] Sons and Daughters [of the Nisei Veterans], too,” Fukuda said. “Always trying to include us in the functions and in his notes to Honolulu [for Puka Puka Parade].”
Izumigawa was president of the Maui 100th Battalion Veterans Club at the time of his death.
“He was the one who was carrying on,” Fukuda said. “It was kind of ironic in that Stan stood away until the 50th reunion [of the 100th Battalion].”
D Company veteran Edward Nishihara said Izumigawa “was real devoted to the Club 100. . . . We worked together very well. He was the president and I was the secretary-treasurer.” Nishihara became secretary of Club 100 in 1984 and added on the treasurer duties after the passing of Tom Nagata, a C Company veteran, in 2007.
“He was that guy that was liked by everybody,” said Hiroshi Arisumi, pointing out that Izumigawa was president of both the 100th and 442nd veterans clubs. Arisumi is the longtime president of the NVMC board and a veteran of the 442nd’s 232nd Combat Engineer Company.
“He was very intelligent, well-spoken,” said NVMC board member Brian Moto, whose father, Kaoru, a 100th Battalion C Company soldier, received a Medal of Honor, posthumously. “He had that ability to communicate — refined and, I think, someone often looked to for leadership and for his knowledge about the past,” Moto said.
Tom Hiranaga, a Maui 442nd Veterans Club member, described Izumigawa as very humble and soft-spoken and whose demeanor masked the fact that he had been a principal at Wailuku Elementary.
“The way he dress, the way he talk, just like anybody else,” said Hiranaga, who was in F Company during the war and later served as secretary and treasurer under Izumigawa.
“I was his secretary for a while, and then Kiyoshi Kishimoto (a Silver Star recipient from L Company), the treasurer, passed away, and he asked me to take over. So I worked for him. . . . I was very proud to have served as his treasurer.”
PASSING THE TORCH
Izumigawa’s late arrival to veterans activities might also have been related to his wife’s ill health for many years, said daughter Jill Ross. Early on, “he never was involved. . . . It seems like maybe after that (her passing in 1995), he was more involved in the veterans.”
Being a soldier “was such a big part of his life,” Ross said in a phone interview on a Saturday evening in May. She had spent the day, one of many days since her dad’s passing, going through his belongings with her sister, Joan Izumigawa, of O‘ahu.
“All the opportunities, and going abroad, and how it shaped him,” Ross said. “I think he was interested in preserving the history.”
Ross is a member of Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. The Sansei group organizes a memorial service for Nisei soldiers every September — Ross has chaired the effort for several years.
The service began as the 100th Battalion’s memorial tribute to its fallen comrades on the Sunday closest to the date the unit’s first soldier was killed in action, Sgt. Shigeo “Joe” Takata, on Sept. 29, 1943.
“I don’t remember being pushed or anything” to be active in the Sons and Daughters, Ross said. If anything, “He did it by example. He did it by being president of the veterans clubs and doing the other things,” she added.
“Quite a few years ago, my dad told me that ‘you guys should consider changing your name to descendants (from Sons and Daughters).’ . . . He was always thinking about what’s next.”
Ross’ 20-year-old son, David, is Izumigawa’s only grandchild. He gave the closing remarks at his grandfather’s service.
As a parent, “I wanted him to participate,” Ross said. “I would give him roles and things like presenting flowers at the [100th] memorial service . . . Come to the [veterans’] socials and help. . . . When my dad died, one of the first things he said was, ‘What are you going to do with all his veterans stuff?’ He knew how important it was.”
A RENAISSANCE MAN
Izumigawa was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2011.
“He was going to do whatever he could to continue going on,” Ross said. “He never, like, gave up. He was just going to keep doing whatever he had to do.
“At some point, it occurred to him that he might be dying. That was funny, in a way,” she said, because he was just moving on with his life.
Staying in motion was his way. He took up windsurfing about 20 years ago, and did it regularly until about three years ago.
On days he didn’t windsurf, he would ride his bicycle several miles or do “at least 300 short pushups, not the full one . . . And I do a hundred squats every evening, unless I’ve had some physical activity,” he said in his 2004 interview for the Go For Broke National Education Center’s Hanashi Oral History Program.
Another speaker at Izumigawa’s service was Kunio Kobayashi, who talked about the lunch bunch of retired principals who gather on Wednesdays at the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center food court.
Ross once asked him if he noticed all the other informal groups that gathered there regularly. He didn’t realize they were there, she said, because “he was just having too much fun with his bunch.”
Izumigawa also was a “constant gardener” who enjoyed climbing trees, doing yard work and growing his own food. He was a “voracious reader” and enjoyed making things: slippers, poi pounders. He was a woodcarver who made toothpicks and shoehorns, and even fly swatters from bamboo. He made tables, ladders, rubber bands out of tires and sheaths for his machetes — things he needed around the house and yard, all made with things he had at hand.
Though he kept going, her dad “wasn’t really the same” after surgery in 2012, Ross said.
When his hearing began failing, before his cancer diagnosis, he submitted his resignation as an NVMC board member.
“I went to his house and asked him to withdraw the resignation, to at least see it through the completion of the Education Center,” said Fukuda, whose father, Mitsuyoshi, was commanding officer of the 100th Battalion and, later, executive officer of the 442nd.
“I was very happy to see him do the unveiling of the KIA (killed in action) plaque,” Fukuda said of Izumigawa’s role in the grand opening of the Education Center.
The plaque lists the 101 soldiers from Maui who were killed in action in Europe during World War II.
“He did a lot of work on the list,” Fukuda said. “Over the years, we had had lists, but we had never gone through them with a fine-tooth comb.”
Fukuda continued: “He was a 100th [Battalion] representative, one of the two veterans we had on the board (along with Arisumi). Very generous in terms of what he gave to us . . . in money and time. . . . Every cleanup we had at the center, he was there with his tools.
“I just wanted to see him see this through and be credited.”
And when his work to forever honor his brothers in service was done, Stanley Izumigawa died peacefully at his home in Kula.
Roy Tanaka worked for The Maui News for 32 years where he held a number of positions — reporter, copy editor, assistant news editor and news editor. Tanaka graduated from Baldwin High School in Wailuku and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington State College in Bellingham. In 2009, he and his wife relocated to the Pacific Northwest to assist with family caregiving. They now live in Alaska, where Tanaka splits his time between family caregiving and work on independent editorial projects, among them the Go For Broke National Education Center’s Torch newsletter. Tanaka also continues his membership and involvement, albeit long-distance, in the Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans and the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center. His father, the late Earl Isao Tanaka, served in Headquarters Company of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion in the 442nd RCT. Earl Tanaka helped to produce the 442nd’s High Angle newspaper while in Europe. He went on to make journalism his life, working as news editor for The Maui News and training and mentoring the next generation of journalists. Roy Tanaka and his wife hope to one day return to their home on Maui to live.