Sakahashi retiring after 31 years of caring for kupuna

LIHUE — When Eric Honma needs health care, all he needs to do is look next door.

Honma is a neighbor of Caryn Sakahashi, who was honored Wednesday for her contribution to Adult Day Health Services for more than 30 years during a joint ceremony by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and the Kauai County Council.

“You are an important person,” said Council Chair Mel Rapozo. “Look at how many people are in the gallery. We had some serious matters on the agenda this morning and there were only three people sitting there.”

Sakahashi’s honors included the mayor declaring Dec. 14 as Caryn Sakahashi Day for her more than 30 years of service. The county council offered a special certificate of commendation authored by new council member Derek Kawakami.

“You’re too young to retire,” said Councilman Arthur Brun.

Sakahashi, supervisor at the Kauai Adult Day Health Center on Hale Nani Street in Lihue, started with the program in 1974 where she came to the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center as a volunteer, said Lani Yukimura.

“After the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center site closed in 1985, Caryn moved to the current Lihue location,” Yukimura said. “After 31 years of dedicated service to kupuna, she is retiring at the end of the year.”

Sakahashi said she’s always loved “old people” after being taught by her parents, Masao and Kum Sin Hasegawa, to respect elders.

“In reflecting over my past 30 years, my greatest accomplishment is affecting more than a thousand people, including those with Alzheimer’s Disease and other diseases,” Sakahashi said. “Kupuna always come first. This is a humbling experience because there are so many others who deserve this recognition. I share this with my staff of more than 20 years who work hand in hand with our clients. I merely sit in the office and push papers.”

Sakahashi said Lani Yukimura has been a very good mentor, teaching her a lot of things that helped her in her work.

“This has been such a wonderful journey,” Sakahashi said. “I look back on 30 years and ask myself, ‘Have I done any good in the world?’ When I think of all those people who have come to us, I can truly say ‘I did.’”

Jasmine Yukimura has been designated as Sakahashi’s replacement as supervisor for the Kauai Adult Day Health Center in Lihue.

Honma, who was among the gallery of well-wishers, smiled through the presentation of lei and photo opportunities. “She lives next door to me,” he said. “Now, I don’t need to worry because when I need help, she’s next door.”

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