Karleen Chinen

After several weeks of updates about his wife Gail Honda’s condition, each gloomier than the one before, the Nov. 1st email from Kipp Martin did not come as a total surprise. Like Kipp, and Gail’s family and friends, I had hoped and prayed for a miracle that never came. Gail Ann Miyoko Honda, a member of our extended Herald ‘ohana, passed away on Nov. 1 from a cancer that had only been diagnosed a few months earlier.

Gail was only 60 . . . still so young. Why? How can this be? But I’ve learned that there are no answers to those existential questions.

Earlier this year, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Honouliuli Internment Camp, Gail launched a Herald series on some Hawai‘i residents who were imprisoned at Honouliuli Internment Camp and/or the Sand Island detention camp. Gail had kept detailed notes of her interviews with them in 1980 and was writing first-person narratives of their experiences. She hoped to eventually publish their stories in a book.

The Herald had published the narratives of four internees while Gail tried to connect with the families of the last three to get their approval of their respective narrative. In the midst of that, she was diagnosed with lymphoma of the bone marrow. It proved to be an aggressive form.

Gail asked Kipp to inform me that she had to suspend the series for a while, but that she would return to it when she was better. That was Gail for you.

My friendship with Gail began in late 2015 when she contacted me about a subject that deeply concerned her: the legacy of the Sansei generation. What legacy, if any, she asked, are we leaving future generations of Japanese Americans? Gail was interested in writing an essay for the Herald to address that question. Our lunchtime meeting to discuss her essay evolved into a monthly series of essays by Hawai‘i Sansei from all walks of life. In 2017, we continued the series with mainland Sansei.

Among the Hawai‘i writers was Dr. Joyce Tsunoda, retired UH senior vice president and chancellor emeritus of the UH community colleges, who divides her time between Hawai‘i and Japan. I introduced Gail to Joyce via email. Together, we came up with the idea of bringing the essayists together so they could meet each other face-to-face and exchange thoughts on the Sansei legacy. Gail, who had retired early from her teaching position at Hawai‘i Pacific University, took the lead in planning the reception.

Our friendship had blossomed since that first meeting in 2015. We met regularly for lunch, always on a Saturday so we could enjoy lunch leisurely and catch up and hatch new ideas for stories.

Besides being a good friend, Gail was an oyakökö daughter. She made several trips a week out to Wahiawä to cook for her parents, clean, tend to their health needs and to accompany them to church on Sundays. And, she often attended Leilehua High School football games with her father, a diehard Mules fan.

I am grateful for the friendship Gail and I shared. We will all miss her and her writing and the enthusiasm with which she approached every story she wrote for the Herald. We will always remember Gail for inspiring us to think seriously about the legacy we will leave future generations. We thank her by reprising her “What is the Legacy of the Sansei?” essay.

Aloha ‘oe, Gail . . . until we meet again.


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