Chiyeno Matsumoto celebrates 104th birthday on Valentine’s Day

KAPAA — “Juvia, where my Starburst?” is a phrase Chiyeno Matsumoto says frequently.

Matsumoto got a special delivery Tuesday when instead of Mahelona Hospital nurse Juvie Bercasio coming up with her sweet treat, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo carefully peeled the wrapper off an orange Starburst and placed it in her mouth.

“I heard she likes Starburst candy,” said Rapozo who also presented Matsumoto with a County Council certificate celebrating her 104th birthday. “These things are childproof. And look, she has Godiva chocolates, too.”

Matsumoto, who was joined by her brother Satoshi, 97, of Honolulu, Grace Matsumoto, and nephew William Matsumoto of Honolulu, is older than Mahelona Hospital, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in July.

Chiyeno Matsumoto was born on Kauai on Feb. 14, 1913, but moved to Japan at an young age. After returning to Kauai, Matsumoto was a homemaker, although briefly working as a waitress at the Hanamaulu Cafe.

“She’s always been single because she never found the ‘right man,’” said Josie Pablo, Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital recreation director. “But she was always surrounded by her loving family like her nephew William, and brother Satoshi who lives in Honolulu.”

Rapozo, in the certificate, said Matsumoto was an “exceptional homemaker, actively involved with the Lihue Hongwanji Mission where you might be able to find her name on a plaque for donating a sum of money for the church’s building renovations.”

“She never had any of her own children,” Rapozo said. “But she enjoys and loves children. She also loves food, and of course, Starburst candy.”

Her secret to life is you need to pray, eat vegetables and miso soup, and not forget Starburst candy. Pablo said the 104-year-old matriarch broke into chant when Kauai County Councilmember Derek Kawakami entered the room.

Her birthday celebration only added to the hospital’s Valentine’s Day festivities, as residents and staff adorned in pink and red added party hats and streamers to the room.

“Is this Mahelona chaos?” Pablo asked. “We couldn’t make her the Valentine’s queen because she did that last year. This year, she is one of the Valentine princesses.”

Matsumoto was joined by Charlene Yoneji, owner of Yoneji Store in Lihue, who was dubbed the Princess of Heart.

“I used to cockroach bubble gum there when I was young,” Rapozo said of Yoneji Store. “Until my grandma found out and went to pay for them.”

Virginia Cabillan of Puhi, working in the Wilcox Hospital laundry room for 13 years, received the Valentine’s queen honor, and Agapito Saulibio, who calls Feb. 14 “Lover Day,” received the crown of Valentine’s king.

Saulibio worked for the Lihue Plantation for 45 years and has been married to Dane Saulibio for 66 years.

“Valentine’s Day is another day we can show our loved ones how much we care for them through the giving of flowers, candies, or cards,” Pablo said. “It’s a day that brings out the romance, and it is a Mahelona Hospital tradition to have a Valentine’s court to celebrate this day.”

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