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Hawaii Island trucking pioneer dies


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Yasuo Kuwaye, a pioneer of the trucking industry on the Big Island and a longtime community leader, died April 17 at the Hospice of Hilo Pohai Malama Facility. He was 90.

Born in the New Stable Camp north of Honokaa on May 19, 1922, Kuwaye — who was known as “Yasu” — was the founder and chairman of Kuwaye Trucking Inc., a past president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawaii and the Japanese Community Association, and served on the boards of numerous business and community organizations.

“Yasu was a special kind of guy, very caring, responsible and community-minded,” Art Taniguchi, a senior vice president of Bank of Hawaii, said Wednesday.

Kuwaye helped establish Hawaii Island’s sister city relationship with Japan’s Oshima Island in 1962.

“That was the very first sister city relationship the Big Island had, an island-to-island one. He did it with the late state Sen. Richard Lyman,” Taniguchi said. Taniguchi added that Kuwaye traveled numerous times over the years to Oshima, which means “big island” in Japanese, at his own expense.

“He was really into cultural exchange,” Wayne Kuwaye said.

In 2001 Kuwaye was awarded an imperial decoration from the Japanese government, the “Order of the Sacred Treasure with Gold and Silver Rays” for promoting goodwill between Japan and Hawaii and his outstanding service to his community.

“He was one of the last two living recipients on the Big Island of this Japanese imperial decoration that was given by the Japanese government that was given for promoting relations between Japan and America,” Taniguchi said. “Larry Isemoto of Isemoto Contracting is the other.”

Kuwaye also participated in the dedication of the Subaru Telescope in 1999, which was attended by then-Princess Sayako, who has since relinquished her royal status to marry a commoner.

“Yasu was president of the Japanese Community Association at that time and he was one of those who greeted her and welcomed her,” Taniguchi said. “He said ‘what a great experience’ and couldn’t stop talking about it. That’s something that meant a lot to him.”

Kuwaye’s father, Matsu, was a former sugar contract laborer who arrived from Okinawa in 1909 and who started a taxi business with a horse and buggy in 1912. Yasuo Kuwaye was running the family’s service station in Honokaa when the demand for hauling services increased during World War II. Kuwaye rented a flatbed truck around 1942, running between Honokaa, Kona and Hilo, and later expanded the fleet to six vehicles.

The 1946 tsunami destroyed the Hamakua coast’s railroad tracks, increasing the demand for trucking services.

“By the way he went about doing things, I think he set a good example,” Wayne Kuwaye said. “He made good use of of whatever resources were available to him.”

Visitation is 9-11 a.m. today at Dodo Mortuary Chapel. A memorial service is at 11 a.m. The family requests casual attire.

Kuwaye is survived by his wife, Hanako Kuwaye of Hilo; daughter, Frances Kay (Leroy) Chow of Hilo; son, Wayne Yoshio (Carol) Kuwaye of Hilo; sisters, Misao Sakamoto of Palo Alto, Calif., Sumiko (Stanley) Toyama of Hilo and Sachiko (Tomoo) Kanetake of Mountain View, Calif.; sisters-in-law, Masako Kuwaye of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Michie Kuwaye of Hilo; three grandchildren; nephews, nieces and cousins.

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