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With Love and Admiration

Something very tragic happened last December. Lisa Okuhata, general manager and controller of the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation’s HRT Ltd., wife, mother of two sons and active community volunteer, died suddenly and unexpectedly.

She was only 44.

I was not particularly close to Lisa, but our lives intertwined. Her mother, Setsue Kuwabara, was my fourth grade teacher. I followed the former Lisa Kuwabara through Noelani Elementary, Stevenson Intermediate and Roosevelt High Schools, where she was a class officer and the salutatorian of her graduating class. She went on to the University of Hawaii, then to work as a CPA with the Hawaii office of an international accounting firm, as a vice president for a Japanese construction company, then as a general manager and controller under the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Along the way, she married and had two sons. One of them became my son’s preschool then elementary school classmate. Lisa and I reconnected about 8 years ago, when we both started to serve on Noelani’s PTA Board.

In spite of her demanding job in support of one of the top philanthropic organizations and one of the largest landowners in the state, Lisa somehow also found the time to make our smaller community a better place. She chaired Noelani’s Craft Fair Committee, which stages one of the school’s biggest fundraisers, in 2004 and 2005. I can still picture her in her red committee t-shirt, walkie-talkie in hand. The thousands of dollars raised by the craft fair help to pay for the school’s physical education and music teachers as well as countless other improvements. As if this were not a monumental enough volunteer undertaking, she staged the 2005 craft fair in early November, shortly after the overflow from Manoa Stream flooded the school in late October.

Lisa’s soft-spoken, sweet countenance and humble demeanor, reflected her gentle, giving spirit. I always admired how she was able to balance a powerhouse job, motherhood and many hard working hours of community service, with easy competence and grace. I never got a chance to tell her so. A friend who spoke at Lisa’s memorial service said goodbye with the words Lisa wrote in her high school yearbook, “with love and admiration.” It’s a sentiment shared by many.

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