5 given Waimea Spirit Awards

The Waimea Alumni & Friends Foundation recent annual general membership meeting and luau in the Waimea High School Cafeteria recognized five outstanding individuals who contributed to their school and/or community.

Recipients of the 2017 Spirit Award were Teddy Arroyo, Ruth Cassel, Gladys Okada, Mark Ozaki and Chad Ken Taniguchi.

Here is a bit about each of these fine people who give of their time and talent to make for a better community.

Teddy Arroyo

Originally from Kalihi Valley,Teddy Arroyo moved to Kauai and graduated from Waimea High in 1982.

An outstanding high school football player, Teddy earned accolades as the 1982 KIF Defensive Player of the Year, the 1982 Waimea High School Male Athlete of the Year, the 1981 & 1982 KIF All-Star Linebacker, and the 1982 All-State Linebacker. He also lettered in basketball & track.

A member of the Kauai Officials Association for more than a decade, Teddy recently became president of the Kauai Pop Warner League, and has been a Football Commissioner for eight years. He has also been a K-PAL flag football coach for four years, an umpire for the KIF junior varsity football game and a Pop Warner coach for nearly 30 years. Teddy enjoys watching young athletes learning the values of sportsmanship, handling challenges and serving as role models in the community.

A plumber for 32 years, Teddy has been the owner of Arroyo’s Plumbing, LLC for the last 20 years.

When he is not running his plumbing business of spending time with his family, he is officiating one of the many Pop Warner football games, or serving as umpire for a KIF junior varsity football game.

Ruth Cassel

Volunteerism began early for Ruth Harding Cassel. She volunteered at the Veterans’ Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, playing music. Raised in a small town of 500 people in rural Iowa, Ruth graduated from Altoona High School, Class of 1950, married her husband, James, and moved half way across the continent and the Pacific Ocean to Kauai to teach music in 1951, and never left.

Ruth had a number of interesting careers in her lifetime. She was the substitute at Waimea High School as the band and chorus instructor, worked at Guadalupe’s Original Creations in Waipoulil, managed Richard Okada’s Music Shop in the Eleele Shopping Center, and was a Dental Assistant to Dr. Thomas Kagawa in Waimea. Throughout this time, she taught the joy of piano to young and old for over 30 years in Waimea

Anyone who has experienced a church service or program at the Waimea Foreign Church knows the beauty and passion of the organ music. Ruth and her late husband, Jim, were the backbones of the choir at the Waimea Foreign Church for decades — she as the organist, and he as the choir director. Ruth has been the organist at the church for more than 66 years.

Ruth is an original member of the Kauai Chorale since the early 1960s, bringing beautiful Christmas music to the community over the years. She is also a member of the West Kauai Rotary Club and has been an Elections Poll volunteer since the 1950’s.

Ruth has been recognized for her service to her community. In 1982, she received the Aloha Spirit Award from the Kauai Chamber of Commerce. In 2001, she was recognized for 50 years of Service to the Kauai Community by State Senate, the State House of Representatives and the County of Kauai.

Gladys Okada

The youngest of eight children born to Issei parents, Chohachi and Shizue Tokushige from Fukuoka, Japan, Gladys Tokushige Okada attended Eleele School and graduated from Waimea High School in 1949. Upon graduation, she attended the University of Hawaii and Western Michigan Unversity where she earned her bachelor of science degree in 1953.

Gladys spent her first two teaching years in Chicago public schools, then returned to Kauai to teach. She taught at Kekeha School, Eleele School and Kaumakani School. She spent the next 23 years at Waimea Elementary/Waimea Canyon School, where she taught reading and language arts to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. She retired after 30 years of teaching.

With education as a priority, Gladys donated much of her time helping others in the community. She taught math to Kekaha Sugar Plantation truck drivers to assist them to pass the relicensing test, taught English as a Second Language to immigrants from the Philippines and has spent the last 10 years teaching tai chi to fellow residents at Regency at Pua Kea, where she now resides.

Other community activities include organizing the opening of the West Side Food Pantry in 1995, sponsored by Waimea United Church of Christ, participating in 2 mission outreaches to Molokai’s Kalaupapa Settlement, participating in a Christian Mission to Japan, participating in establishing a Neighborhood Watch for parts of Waimea Heights, and participating in teaching hula in Japan under the late Doric Yaris.

Never one to be idle, Gladys has spent 20-plus years after retirement as an active member of the Waimea Neighborhood Center, serving as president for three terms and teaching tai chi classes. She was also active with the Kauai Japanese Cultural Center, serving as education program chair, coordinating Japanese students’ visitation to Kauai for 10 years. She has served on the board of directors of the Kauai Fukuoka Kenjin Kai and the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind – Hawaii & Kauai chapters for 15 years.

Mark Ozaki

Born on Oahu, but raised on Kauai, Mark Ozaki still lives in the house he grew up in in Kalaheo. A 1987 graduate of Waimea High School, Mark attended Kauai Community College, the University of Hawaii at Hilo and received his associate in arts degree in lberal arts from the University of Hawaii in 1995.

Mark joined the Kauai Police Department in 1999 and has spent the last 18 years working primarily with juvenile and community relations duties. He has worked as a school resource officer, has taught Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) lessons at Kalaheo, Koloa, Eleele & Kekeha Elementary Schools as well as Wamea Canyon School. He is currently a captain assigned to the administrative and technical bureau.

Co-founder of the K-PAL program in 2002 and Mark is currently the program coordinator for all K-PAL which offers youngsters ranging in ages fro 5-19 opportunities for personal development and fun through boxing, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, flag football, Jiu Jitsu self defense, Sea Scouts, wrestling and youth center. K-PAL serves between 1,200 – 2,500 youth participants annually and have between 250 and 500 volunteers throughout Kauai.

A USA Boxing Certified Level II Coach and Level II Official since 2008, Mark also coached boxing at the Hanapepe Multi Use Facility for 10 years. He was the assistant coach for the Oki Boxing Club for eight years, has been the head coach for the Kauai PAL Boxing Club since 2008, and presently serves as a state of Hawaii boxing commissioner.

When not busy with boxing and K-PAL work, Mark has been a coach, referee or official of Kalawai and Lihue Youth Baseball, AYSO soccer, Pop Warner flag football and tackle football and KIF cross country.

From Hanapepe, to Lihue, to Kapaa and Kilauea, Mark volunteers several hours of his time weekly.

Mark has received numerous awards over the years for his service to the community including the Rotary Club Humanitarian Award, the State Lions District 50 Humanitarian Award, Kauai Police Department Employee of the Year, Hawaii State Law Enforcement Officials Award Officer of the Year and others.

Chad Ken Taniguchi

Son of Kazue Kamishita and the late Baker Taniguchi, Chad Ken Taniguchi was raised in Waimea and graduated from Waimea High School in 1970. He went on to earn his bachelor of arts degree at the University of Hawaii in 1983 and received his Juris Doctor (law degree) from the University of Hawaii Manoa Richardson Law School in 1985.

Chad’s work experiences center around helping his community. While at the University of Hawaii, he was the principal investigator for the UH Ethnic Studies Oral History Project, preserving historical first-person history from immigrants. He was an attorney with Paul Johnston Alston & Hunt for five years, served as Kauai County Housing administrator for five years, and Hawaiian Home Lands, Kauai district manager for five years. He and his family moved to Honolulu where she was the executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority for three years, and has been the executive director of the Hawaii Bicycling League since 2010.

For Chad Taniguchi, the volunteer spirit has always been a part of Waimea. He sees how this spirit inspires people to do community projects large and small. It is no wonder, that witnessing so much giving around him, that he, too, has become a community activist and giver.

As Kauai County Housing administrator after Hurricane Iniki in 1992, Chad asked volunteers to help build small 10’ x 20’ units for families with destroyed homes — these units are still in use.

The housing volunteer work influenced the federal and state governments to provide $50 million in affordable housing grants — these units are still in use.

At the Hawaii Public Housing Authority Chad asked volunteers and residents statewide to fix units and maintain the properties so more people could use public housing. The volunteer work helped turn around the Authority from a chronic $7 million annual budget deficit to a $2 million budget surplus in three years.

At the Hawaii Bicycling League Chad asks residents and businesses to contribute to install and maintain pedestrian crossing flags to reduce pedestrian deaths — after six pedestrians were killed in the first six months in 2016 in Waianae/Nanakuli, pedestrian flags were placed at 25 unsignalized crosswalks; since then no pedestrians have been killed. Because of the “can do” spirit of Waimea, Chad feels everything is possible when people adopt common goals and work together to accomplish them.

The Waimea Alumni & Friends Foundation is very proud to recognize these individuals who have donated thousands of hours to their school and community.

The luau also celebrated two special accomplishments.

The program opened with the singing of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate Waimea High School’s 135th birthday. Waimea High School opened its doors as an elementary school in 1881 on the west side of Kauai. It expanded to grades K-12 in 1935 and in 1977, assumed its present structure as a comprehensive four-year high school servicing grades 9-12. Spread out over several acres with 16 buildings overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the campus is the center of the Waimea community.

Finally, this was a celebration of the installation of baffles in the cafeteria. The foundation hired Shioi Construction to install acoustic treatment to make cafeteria acoustically more conducive to group gatherings. The luau closed with the awesome sounds of Taste of Harmony.


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