Rowena, Frances and Rowena’s mom Dorothy. (Photos courtesy of Frances Kakugawa)
Rowena, Frances and Rowena’s mom Dorothy. (Photos courtesy of Frances Kakugawa)

Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa

Dear Readers,

At a recent poetry reading in Hilo, a college student asked, “When you return to Hawai‘i, what part of Hawai‘i makes it for you? What do you miss most?”

“Hawai‘i’s people,” I replied.

They were there throughout my events in Honolulu and Hilo. I’m going to spotlight a few of these remarkable people. There were many from my Kapoho School years and college classmates. And, there were children and grandchildren of kindergarteners I had taught. Today, I’m going to honor those women who, in their 90s, are still reading my “Dear Frances” columns and defying the aging process.

In earlier columns, I introduced you to Rowena, whose 92-year-old mother, Dorothy, read my “Kapoho” book and shared it with a 96-year-old housemate. Dorothy attended my lecture and told me that she reads this column. She even had a few questions for me. I’m only sorry that I didn’t have more time to talk story with her. Here we are in this photo — all three of us.

In Hilo, I also visited my 95-year-old Aunty Hisako. She was reading my book of poems, “Dangerous Woman,” when I entered her living room. She reads about two novels a month, even though she is blind in one eye. And, she doesn’t wear eyeglasses. When she runs out of books, she rereads them. Whenever I see her, she tells me how smart I am. When I was a child, her husband, Jun, used to tell me that I would someday grow up to be a beautiful woman. We can’t all make the right predictions, especially in Kapoho, but every scrawny girl who was teased by the boys about being “stew bones” and who wore a jacket throughout high school to hide her undeveloped body needs an Uncle Jun and Aunty Hisako to give them positive messages.

Aunty is an avid reader of “Dear Frances.” She lives that metaphor of a river that keeps flowing, no matter how many boulders are placed in it.

At Hilo Airport, on my way back to Sacramento, a woman looked at me like she recognized me. “I know you from your Hawai‘i Herald picture,” she said. “I read your column every month. I know Kapoho and all that area because we used to visit those places a lot.”

The woman was Ella Fujie, who is 96 years old. She was on her way to Las Vegas to play. She also told me that her hairdresser is my cousin Jeanne Kakugawa, whose daughter lives in Sacramento, where I live.

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Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on Hawai‘i Island, she now lives in Sacramento. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and educator and her personal caregiving experiences to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses. She is a sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with the stresses of caregiving.

Frances with Ella Fujie at Hilo Airport.
Frances with Ella Fujie at Hilo Airport.
Aunty Hisako and me.
Aunty Hisako and me.

Book cover with title "Awakening Your Ikigai, How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day" by Ken Mogi

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