LIHUE — People came from all over Sunday for a day of golf and a “reunion” of Pop Warner football players who played under Coach Dick Ueoka.
“I love football,” Ueoka said. “I was a boy until I played football. It helped send me to school.”
Ueoka received a mayoral proclamation announcing Dec. 3, 2016, as Dick “Kazu” Ueoka Day. A year later, he was greeted by former classmates, family, friends and former players he coached, and recognized for his outstanding service to the community at a reunion at Lihue Neighborhood Center.
“There was a golf tournament earlier,” said Eric Nordmeier, one of the reunion organizers. “On Dec. 3, 2016, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. proclaimed it as Coach Ueoka’s day, and this year is the one-year anniversary. The idea is to get together and reminisce over the days gone by as we get older.”
The Hanapepe boy was greeted by George Honjiyo, a classmate of his at Eleele School, where they met and became friends through football.
“He’s just five days younger than me,” Ueoka said. “And, there’s another guy who is five years younger than us. Remember Hanapepe Park? We used to play football over there.”
Ueoka was recognized as one of the founders of the Kauai Pop Warner Football League for his years of dedication to youth football.
He graduated from Waimea High School, where he played football, and went on to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his football career continued.
His tenure in football earned him accolades for his athleticism, and he claimed outstanding school athlete of the year honors in football, basketball, baseball and track at Waimea because of his quickness, speed and talent.
He was inducted into the Waimea High School Legacy Hall of Fame for football, as well as the University of Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.
He continued his love affair with football by devoting hours to the Kauai Pop Warner Football League and the Kauai Interscholastic Federation as a coach, mentor and official, with his good friend the late Harold Naumu. Both men are credited with starting the Kauai Pop Warner League back in 1962.
Born to an immigrant Japanese family, Ueoka grew up on the Westside and raised two children, Kelly and Miki, both of whom were outstanding athletes in their own right.
Ueoka’s grandfather was a businessman, and later, the family constructed a historical building in Hanapepe known as Ueoka Store.