Matriarch of Watanabe Floral Has Enjoyed a Long and Full Life

Gregg K. Kakesako
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

When Sandra Watanabe-Lo wheeled her mother, Shizue (Katashima) Watanabe, into their 22,000-square-foot, family-run Watanabe Floral business on Nimitz Highway recently, it was to celebrate a special milestone: Watanabe’s 100th birthday.

“I always bring her here on all special occasions, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” said Watanabe-Lo, the youngest of Ernest and Shizue Watanabe’s six children. The Watanabes have been involved in the flower production and floral sales business for nearly three-quarters of a century.

Family members and the floral shop’s staff celebrated Shizue’s 100th birthday with cake and ice cream. The family matriarch sat under a beautiful display of flowers near the entrance to the shop, watching as the employees assisted customers as they entered the store and left with bouquets of flowers and containers of lei.

A grander celebration with some 300 invited family members and friends will be held later this month at the Hawaii Okinawa Center.

Shizue Watanabe was born in 1918 in Mänoa. For most of her married life, she worked every day at her family’s business, Watanabe Floral, now located between Nimitz Highway and Hart Street in Kalihi. She retired about five years ago. She also worked at all of the business’ previous locations: Wai‘alae, Koko Head and McCully.

Asked what she attributes her good health and longevity to, Watanabe replied, “I think it must be good genes.”

“My oldest sister, Tsuneko Fukui, also lived to 100 years old and eight days,” she said. “My youngest sister, Alyce Loui, is 97 years old.”

“She always maintained a healthy diet — lots of fish and vegetables,” said daughters Watanabe-Lo and Joanne Watanabe.

Watanabe’s father, Masaro Katashima, was 93 when he died in 1982, and her mother, Shizuko
(Fujiwara) Katashima, a picture bride, lived to the age of 87. Both were from Hiroshima. Shizue said she traces her lineage back to the Fujiwara clan, whose extended family ruled Japan during the Heian Period (794 to 1185). She said her father left Japan for Hawai‘i at age 17 to avoid being drafted into the Japanese army

Shizue Watanabe said the most significant events she witnessed in her 100 years of life in Hawai‘i were Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, “when Japanese Americans proved their loyalty to America and the United States retaliated and won the war,” and when Hawai‘i became a state.

In the early days of Watanabe Floral, Shizue said she supervised and worked with the women who processed the roses the company grew in Koko Head, Wai‘alae, Mililani and Waimea on the Big Island. The company stopped growing roses in 2009.

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Gregg K. Kakesako worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for more than four decades as a government, political and military affairs reporter and assistant city editor.

Ernest and Shizue Watanabe on their wedding day in May 1945. (Photo courtesy Watanabe family)
Ernest and Shizue Watanabe on their wedding day in May 1945. (Photo courtesy Watanabe family)

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