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Honoring a birthday girl: Hilo woman celebrates 100th year


Gladys Nakamura was born on June 11, 1914. She has outlived her daughters, Joye and Mary, and only a son, Nolan, remains and lives on the mainland.

A day before her 100th birthday, she succinctly emphasized that age “no change my mind,” appropriately describing her mental acuity in recollecting her past vividly.

“My whole childhood life was bad. I was born in Kekaha, Kauai. Yeah, we were in an isolated, lonely place in the forest. I’m only an eight-grade graduate. I went to school late, at age 9. At age 9, I was one day in first grade, one day only in second grade, and five days in third grade. I stayed two weeks in fourth. … Imagine, 9 years old. At 10 years old, I was in sixth grade. Every morning for two weeks, I begged Mother. I wanted to go to school. I told her, ‘I’ll walk to Waimea,’ which was like Hilo to Keaau. In those days, there were hardly any cars. My 13-year-old brother said, ‘Let her go.’

“My mother believed all girls should learn to sew. She said, ‘Girls are supposed to learn to sew.’

“My husband, Shigeo Nakamura, graduated from Teacher’s College, and his first assignment was Kekaha School. He would pass by my sewing room where all the walls were screens. Mother said, ‘I don’t know who that man is — walk just like Japan soldier.’ One day, he stopped by to ask about my younger kid brother. My brother was not in the room when school bell rang. Later, he told mother, ‘I want to marry her.’ I was age 25 and he was 31 or 32.”

“You are educated. My daughter doesn’t have education like you,” Nakamura’s mother told him.

“That’s alright,” he said. “Education has nothing to do with this case. I love your daughter.”

“Though different in education background, he respected me, loved me. My husband loved me. I loved him. We lived happily,” Nakamura said.

 

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