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A pioneer’s spirit

Edith Tanimoto was an extraordinary woman who never sought the spotlight or flaunted her numerous achievements.

She and longtime friend and co-worker, John M. Uyeno, played pivotal roles in the growth of The Garden Island newspaper during what many longtime employees consider its “golden years.”

As Uyeno had done 20 years earlier, Edith started working at TGI during the 44-year long era of aviation pioneer Charles J. Fern. He eventually became editor, publisher and owner of the paper before retiring in 1966, when he sold it to Hagadone Newspapers and Scripps League.

The paper’s transition came at a time when family was always welcome at the paper; when employees had family picnics and Family Days at the beach. It was a time we knew the names of each other’s keiki; watched them grow; worried when they were sick; celebrated each milestone that they passed.

It was the time when beloved TGI editor Jean Holmes came to Kauai, fell in love with the island and stayed for nearly 20 years. It was the time when she and reporters, Georgia Mossman and William LeGro, tried their best to raise public consciousness about the need to preserve the piece of paradise that is Kauai.

And it was also the time when the economy was strong, fueled by the construction boom; when hotels were springing up left and right; when Hollywood and the world discovered Kauai and movies were being made one after the other.

Uyeno and Tanimoto moved rapidly up the corporate ladder, Uyeno to advertising director then publisher of the paper.

Tanimoto moved into accounting and then became office manager. Always impeccably groomed, she was an astute businesswoman personally and professionally. Her business acumen allowed her to be an effective and vigilant watchdog over every aspect of the newspaper’s finances, from billing to accounts payable and receivable. She helped the newspaper flourish and grow during those years of plenty.

When Uyeno received a corporate promotion and resigned as publisher, she moved into and occupied the publisher’s office until she retired in 1993 after more than 30 years with the paper.

“She was an employees’ publisher,” said James Oyadomari, composing department foreman for many years.

He said she always appreciated and never forgot the contributions of the “old-timers,” the diligent, hard-working ladies in the circulation department. In return they respected and loved her as they did no other.

I have many wonderful memories of my years working with and for this amazing woman, who was more than just a boss to me. She was a mentor, supporter and friend and I, too, loved her dearly.

My favorite memory, though, would happen whenever our inserting machine broke down. We all had to help manually insert sections into each other so the paper could be delivered.

Edith would always be right there beside us, working as hard as the rest of us; getting ink on her hands and clothes. My respect for her was infinite and boundless.

Today, the presses have been sold. I sometimes wonder if you stand in the doorway, and close your eyes you might almost hear the laughter and chatter of the spirits of our co-workers who are here no longer.

Edith Tanimoto inspired me and motivated me and many others to strive to do our best always. And we did it for her.

Rest in peace, Edith. Mahalo for all you did for The Garden Island, its employees and for Kauai.

Me Ke Aloha Pumehana, A hui hou kakou.

•••

Rita De Silva is former editor of The Garden Island.

Edith Tanimoto, former publisher of The Garden Island, passed away Saturday at her home in Hanamaulu, said her daughter Joy Kouchi. She was 86. 

She served as the publisher of Kauai’s local newspaper from 1961 to 1993 and is survived by her husband Tommy, daughter Joy, who is married to State Senate President Ron Kouchi, and two grandsons, Dan and Egan Kouchi. 

A celebration of Edith’s life will Sunday at the Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue. Visitation with the family will begin at 2:30 p.m. with a service starting at 4 p.m. 

The family is suggesting aloha attire and no flowers. 

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