Lihue Senior Center celebrates 38th anniversary

Lihue Senior Center celebrated its 38th anniversary last month with a luncheon catered by Mark’s Catering. More than 120 members enjoyed the delicious bentos.

The Lihu‘e Extravaganza performers repeated their popular performance to the delight of all members present who also paid tribute to longtime senior activity manager, Matsuyo Uyeda.

The Lihue Senior Center was organized by Peggy Fayé as the Lihu‘e Retirement Club in 1968. About 20 seniors met at the Lihu‘e Methodist Church on Rice Street for the occasion. The Rev. Matsushima was advisor to the fledgling organization.

Attendance quickly grew to 60 members and within a year, and the group had outgrown its original meeting place and started meeting at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall. Paul Naganuma was president. Elsa Holtwick was executive director.

Mitsuyo Miyaji served as the center’s first aide and Bella Iida the second. In 1973, Matsuko Uyeda was hired as the third. After 16 years on the job, her title changed to senior activity manager. She is still on the job after 27 years.

Lihu‘e Senior Center members said Uyeda’s anniversary messages over the years ‘show what a great friend, leader, teacher, confidant and philosopher” she has been.

“I hope to continue to serve you and together, to work, to learn, to dance, to sing, to laugh, to cry and to reach out whenever or wherever needed,” she said at the center’s 21st anniversary.

Five years later, she told the members that laughter is good medicine: “There are a lot of health messages being thrown at us such as what to eat, what not to eat, exercise, etc. … However, as we grow older and face the inevitable changes taking place with aging, a good sense of humor is a necessity.”

When the center celebrated its 30th anniversary, Uyeda took the opportunity to reminisce about members who had come and gone and acknowledged that she herself had gone through many changes. “This old mare ain’t what she used to be,” she said, but quickly assured members that she wasn’t quite ready for the pasture yet.

Two years later, she reported that although membership was holding steady at 250-plus with an average attendance of 75 to 85 on assembly days, she would like to see the center’s numbers up to their peak level 400 members and 140 to 150 at assemblies.

But her devotion to center members has never wavered.

“Without you dedicated seniors, nothing could have been accomplished,” Uyeda has often said. Members, however, feel that she has actually been the backbone of the center and has guided, prodded, encouraged and sometimes even pressured them to take part in all of the center’s activities.

Lihu‘e Senior Center has been a leader in senior activities on Kaua‘i but nothing could have been accomplished without the leadership of Matsuko Uyeda, according to the members she has worked with over the years.

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