Memories of a lifetime

PUHI — Vally Tsuchiya was named after an opera character because her father loved the opera, said Linda Rozelle, Regency at Puakea director of nursing Wednesday.

Tsuchiya and Gladys Okada were honored for being 10-year residents at the retirement and assisted living facility in Puhi.

“These residents are not just residents here for 10 years,” Rozelle said. “They are the residents who have been living here the longest.”

Regency at Puakea is celebrating its 12th anniversary on Kauai.

Tsuchiya was born in Pisa, Italy and was a war bride, moving to Waimea with her husband Melvin when she was in her 20s, Rozelle said.

“She regularly talks with her younger sister who is 10 years below her and still lives in Italy,” Rozelle said. “She also carries around a piece of paper — the only thing her husband wrote to her in Latin — since 1945. The translated version of that piece of paper is ‘Being engaged and married has more responsibilities than going to war.’ That was when he first said ‘I love you’ to his bride.”

After moving into the Regency in February 2006, Vally’s companion was Bianca, a dog.

“Bianca was born in Honolulu, and loves to make Grandma and all of the residents happy,” Rozelle said. “Bianca, who has since passed, was Valley’s topic of conversation. She liked to talk about that pet more than she liked talking about herself.”

Pam Arrojyo, acting director at the Regency at Puakea, said Vally’s sons, Rick and Val, take turns and tend to her and do her errands. She also has a daughter on Oahu.

Gladys Okada is the widow of the late Dr. George Okada, a practicing optometrist in Waimea and Kalaheo for 35 years.

While completing his optometry education, George met Gladys who taught second grade in Chicago for two years before returning to Kauai where she taught for 30 years.

Gladys has two daughters and four granddaughters.

Gladys penned her memories in “West Kauai’s Plantation Heritage Recipes & Stories for Life,” a part of the Legacy of Hawaii’s Sugar Plantation Community compiled by Evelyn Cook and edited by Elizabeth Faye in 2002.

“Back when I was growing up, I was living in a plantation house — House No. 8 in McBryde store camp — but I didn’t appreciate it,” Gladys said. “Now, as I grew older, I remember what a beautiful home it was, with its long veranda where my mom had her azaleas planted. It had a nice long living room and a nice big kitchen, and four bedrooms. Every window that I used to look out of brings back memories.”

In another excerpt, Gladys wrote of her experiences during World War II.

“When my brother volunteered to go into the service after graduation from high school in 1942, it really broke my mother’s heart,” she wrote. “I remember the day he got inducted in Hanapepe. She was so angry at him for volunteering.”

Following his departure, she went through the same ritual every night, Gladys said.

“His picture was on a little table with the one star which meant we had one son in the service,” Gladys said. “She would place, on a lacquered tray, a bowl of rice, chopsticks, tea, and whatever we were having for supper, bring the tray over to his picture and set it on the little table. Whenever she served a certain eggplant dish that she knew he didn’t like, she would say in Japanese ‘tonight we are eating eggplant, so this is what you have to eat.’ She set his dinner before his picture every night, and apologized when there was something he didn’t like. I think that is what helped her survive until he came home — safe.”


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