WAIPOULI — James Jung said he felt like the event was like being alive at his own funeral Thursday during the Older Americans Month recognition ceremony and luncheon at the Courtyard by Marriott at Coconut Beach.
Jung was announced as Kauai’s Outstanding Older American. He was joined by Sanae Morita from the field of 10 nominees submitted by the community.
“They are all outstanding,” said Julie Souza, chair of the Agency on Elder Affairs board and emcee for the event that filled the Paddle Room. “We acknowledge the contributions these and other older Americans make to their communities, the island and the nation. Look at Sanae. Is she crying?”
Mel Rapozo, the Kauai County council chair, said he remembers Jim Jung from when he was a police officer.
“I was in court for a traffic ticket,” Rapozo said. “Jim was the lawyer for the defendant, and in the end, he won. Later, I was drinking at the fountain and Jim came up to me. I told him, ‘I’m not talking to you.’ When he asked why, I told him I lost the traffic ticket and he said, ‘You didn’t lose — you learned.’”
Nominated by the Kauai Museum where he serves as a docent, greeter and story teller, and the Kauai Hospice where he was instrumental in launching the We Honor Veterans program, Jung has appeared in his Coast Guard uniform for 147 of the 148 Veteran recipients, reminding them their service is appreciated.
Jung, a retired county public defender, is a Coast Guard veteran, a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and Chaplain for American Legion, Post 54, Kapaa — where he constructed a flag repository for the collection of unserviceable American flags on the island. He is part of the Flag Retirement Ceremony conducted as prescribed by the American Legion Manual of Ceremonies and gets the assistance of about 20 Boy Scouts.
He is also vice president and ocean safety educator with the Kauai Lifeguard Association, teaching beach safety and drowning prevention to everyone, keiki to kupuna, instructs recreational boaters about safe boating, conducts vessel checks and engages in safety patrols.
He is also an AARP Driver Safety Program instructor, teaching monthly classes about the effects of aging on driving and is a co-chairperson of the Interfaith Round Table.
Morita started her volunteer service in 1962 as a secretary with the Waimea High School Class of 1952. In 1965, Morita started with the Kauai Association for Family and Community Education, serving as council president, vice president, club president and secretary, and receiving an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Hawaii Association for FCE for her efforts.
Retired as an elementary school teacher, Morita serves as a docent for the Grove Farm Museum and a greeter at the Kauai Museum. She has been a lay reader and usher at the Lihue Christian Church since 1997, and added to her service by cleaning the church and serving breakfast weekly in 2012.
After retirement, Morita joined the RSVP program in 2010 as a volunteer. She currently is an RSVP Advisory Council member. She is also the chairperson for the crafts fxhibit at the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair.
Morita has received the Outstanding Teacher Volunteer Award from the Hawaii Education Association and also received the Golden Apple Award from the Kauai Retired Teachers Association.
Other outstanding older Americans acknowledged for their contributions include Timothy “Timmy” Albao, Trinidad Dela Cruz, Rebecca “Becky” Fries, Jonathan McRoberts, Marcelina Parinas, Winona Steed, Janet Takeya and Allan Villaflor.
Kealoha Takahashi, AEA executive on Aging, said May has been a time to celebrate older Americans their stories, and their contributions.
With a theme of Age Out Loud, Kauai’s mayor and the AEA are using the month to focus on how kupuna in the community are redefining aging through work or family interests, by taking charge of their health and staying independent for as long as possible, she said.
“Kupuna are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities,” Takahashi said. “They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and Older Americans Month is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.”