Dear Karleen,

Thank you for your tribute to former Big Island Mayor — and Judge — Shunichi Kimura. I’m sure there are many such stories of how this man touched us at the most humane and unforgettable level. Here is my story.

I first met Mr. Kimura at an educational meeting, and as we know, he had the memory of a herd of elephants: He never forgot a name.

When I met him, the road to our house in Pähoa was unpaved. It was a subdivision that was created to accommodate evacuees from the Kapoho eruption in the 1960s. So, I told Mayor Kimura about how we needed to have a paved road. He promised to look into it.

One week later, county equipment was sent over and the result was this: They scraped the road and left large pebbles on the road.

Being young and sassy, I wrote a sarcastic letter to Mayor Kimura. I offered to give him a ride in my Volkswagen so he would be able to feel the bump of each large pebble left on the road — told him it would be a ride quite different from his limousine. I also threatened to bring some rocks and pebbles from our road to his office.

Our road was soon paved. At the opening ceremony, he mentioned how he had to pave the road because “Frances Kakugawa had threatened to cover my desk with rocks.”

Thereafter, at each of my four poetry book signings, a bouquet from the Mayor’s Office was waiting for me at the bookstore.

Once, I questioned his rulings as a judge. He often suggested college to youngsters who came before him. I accused him of being an elitist judge. “How about that youngster who wants to be the best waiter or waitress or dreamed of becoming a garbage truck driver? Not all of us have that same kind of passion you had to attend college. Are you imposing your own personal value system on these kids?” I asked. He thanked me, listened not only to me, but also to those who came before him in court thereafter and ruled accordingly.

Today, it’s a rarity for anyone from Congress on down to local businesses to acknowledge any of my communications. I will miss Mr. Kimura for all that he taught me.

Frances H. Kakugawa

Sacramento, Calif.


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