NUKOLII — It’s hard to think of what could be an encore.
After all, what could top celebrating a century by blowing out all 100 candles, taking photographs with all 325 friends, and ballroom dancing.
“I have no plans,” said Kazuma “Monty” Nishiie, a veteran of the 100th Infantry Battalion on Kauai, about what’s next on his list.
For now, it’s resting up.
Monty, as the island knows him, was center stage Sunday night during his 100th birthday party he celebrated with friends, family members and well-wishers who joined the war hero at the Kauai Beach Resort.
“I’m happy to reach this age,” he said.
And the secret?
“God,” Monty said. “To reach this age is a gift from God.”
His wife Celia said a stomach ailment kept Monty down leading up to the party that family concocted in December.
“He had so many people coming, I was hoping he would get better,” she said.
Monty was the first person people saw as he greeted each guest who filed through the doors of the ballroom, taking time with each one to pose for a photo. Later, singer Larry Rivera serenaded him, he had the day named in his honor and he blew out every candle spread over three cakes.
“He couldn’t blow them at one time,” Celia said.
The son of Japanese immigrants, Monty was the eldest of 10 children, attending school in Kilauea, and at 15 years old, started working for the Kilauea Sugar Plantation where his father worked as a contract laborer.
While in school, Kazuma picked up his “Monty” moniker after the class started calling him “Monty-kazuma” following a study unit on Montezuma, the ruler of the Aztec Empire. The name was shortened to “Monty” and stuck with him.
At 25 years old, Monty was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a sergeant with the Company D of the 100th Battalion in Monte Cassino, Italy where he was wounded and earned the Purple Heart in 1943. He also was the recipient of the Bronze Star for his involvement in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operation during the Anzio campaign.
Family from Hawaii, the Mainland, the Philippines, and even Australia showed up for the party, which was actually a celebration of 100 plus a day.
Monty was born on July 25, 1915.
“We feel really blessed to have got to know him,” said author Pam Brown, who wrote about Monty after meeting him in 2011 in her book, “Kauai Stories” and one of the party guests who was surprised to see Nishiie dancing. “He’s still this sweet, humble man he always was, born and raised in Kilauea.”
“It’s so inspirational,” she added. “I really feel like they’re honoring both of them as a couple.”
Following World War II, Monty came home to Kauai, resuming his work at the Kilauea Sugar Company and raising his family, eventually retiring from the G.N. Wilcox Memorial Hospital.
In 2011, Monty was among the Kauai veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept his copy of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States after Congress officially recognized the heroic wartime contributions of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service.
“They believed in their country when their country didn’t believe in them,” Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura described the soldiers, echoing President Barack Obama’s remarks about the heroes.
After cake, music and dancing, the 6 p.m. party kept going late in the night.
“I’m very, very happy,” Celia said about the celebration around the remarkable life she shares with Monty. “I’m very thankful to God because everything is OK.”