May 1992

by K. Arakaki

When Soichi was a young man in college, he played the steel guitar at dances and parties. For him, this was a source of income.

As Soichi was driving thru town, a young lady caught his eye. He continued driving.

A couple days later, he went into a candy shop, there she was again! Nothing was said, he wished he had said something to her.

That weekend, after one of his playing engagements he stopped over at a local dance, there she was - again!

Soichi thought, this must be fate. This is the one......

Soichi crossed the dance hall and asked her to dance, that is when he actually got to know her better.

At the end of the night, Soichi said that he should take her home. Mary said that she was with another person that brought her down. Coach was persistent and said " No, I'll take you home". So he did. That night, Soichi proposed to Mary.

Three days later, Mary and Soichi were married. This, was love at first sight, Soichi exclaimed. And above all", with such a short romance and courtship, Soichi and Missus had never regretted a single moment during these 64 years of marriage.

At the time, Mary was working at the telephone company. Soichi thought it would be better that she didn't work, but rather stay at home.

He would work, he would provide the income and he wanted to take care of his new bride.

Around 1931, his ideas of starting a swimming program to promote world class swimmers shortly followed. As coach was a dedicated and committed person, he had the swimmers be as dedicated and committed.

Coach would hold long and rigorous workouts. 2-3 hours a workout, twice a day. Sometimes the whole day. Swim, rest, dry land, swim, rest, lecture, swim, swim, swim !

The Sakamoto family would be growing. Missus, of course, would take care of their children.

With Coach at the pool, literally day and night, Missus would cook and prepare his lunch and dinner. When she delivered the hot meals to Coach, he would wait until she left, then he would give it to the swimmers.

"The swimmers need to eat also." He said when Missus once caught him giving the food away. She said nothing.

The following day, she brought a cart-full of food. She helped feed the swimmers as well as nurture her husband. She was always in support of him.

During the national and international travels, a female chaperone was a must for the young female athletes. Missus accepted the responsibilities. She would be the team mother. She cooked and washed the dishes. Listened to the swimmer's problem and help in all situations.

With no radio or television at the airport or train stations, Missus would strum on her ukulele and sing Hawaiian tunes to entertain the swimmers. Coach of course would jump in and accompany her. What a duet, what beautiful music they made.

The first swimming club Coach Sakamoto formed, was the famous Three Year Swim Club or 3YSC, then the Alexander House Team on the island of Maui.

With so much success in swimming, in 1945, the University of Hawaii offered Coach a teaching job as a swimming instructor and the head swimming coach.

He accepted the job, and the Sakamoto family made the big move to O'ahu.

Soon after the move, to further senior and age group swimming, Hawaii Swimming Club was founded in 1945.

A year later, in 1946, the Keo Nakama Swimming Invitational was started. Missus was always there to support Coach in whatever he had to do. More national and international champions would be developed. Missus was very proud of her husbands achievements. During the 1970's, as the Sakamoto children were well into their adult lives, Missus would now join Coach at the swim workouts and at the swimming meets.

Yes, she would get her ukulele out and sing for the parents and young HSC athletes. She would teach the swimmers Hawaiian words, how to play the ukulele, and to promote the teachings of Coach Sakamoto. Did I fail to mention Hawaii Pono I and the Lord's Prayer ? This was all part of Coach's formula to develop good citizens and good athletes. In the 1970's, the young athletes of Hawaii Swim Club, really got to know Missus.

In 1980, Missus collapsed to the floor. Coach rushed her to the hospital. The doctors said she had a bleeding ulcer and had lost a lot of blood. The doctors operated and removed a part of the intestine.

Missus had no appetite and her health was rapidly failing. The doctors found an infection around the recent operated area. They operated again to clean out the infection. Missus had lost a lot of weight, and still refused to eat. Yet another infection was developing in the area. Another operation, followed. Meanwhile, Coach would be at her bedside all day, he would leave the hospital and reluctantly go to the pool to coach the swimmers. As soon as training was near over, he left hurriedly with the assistants finishing up the workout and closing up.

Back at the hospital, the doctors now said that Mrs. Sakamoto has some heart problems and had a 50/50 chance of surviving.

Coach exploded in a emotional outrage, sighting the multiple operation within a few weeks, the infection, the heart problem, everything burst into a frustrated anger.

When Missus was just well enough, Coach removed her from the hospital and took her home. With Coach's tenacity and refusal to let his precious wife leave him at that time, he took care of her , himself.

For her lost appetite, Coach would cook fish (her favorite), make poi, and other Hawaiian food. When she could smell the aroma, she craved for the food. Slowly at first, then her appetite got bigger. Coach would force her to walk. Just around the house, then further distances later.

Missus started to put some weight onto her frail body. More nursing, more caring, more food, more exercise and more love.

At a time where swimming was no longer more important, and his family priorities had changed, in 1981, Coach Sakamoto retired from swimming.

Whereas, in the past he dedicated his whole life to swimming, now, he is dedicating him self to take care of his wife. Never again to step on the pool deck to coach another fledgling Olympian.

It was Missus who raised the Sakamoto children while Coach was producing champion swimmers. Missus , had taken care of him, listen to all his dreams of greatness, prodded him along, cheered him up, loved him, cared for him and nurtured him. Coach knew all along the way that his wife did all of this, but now he realized it, in its entirety.

In the mid 1980's, Missus was well enough to travel. Coach and Missus visited their son periodically, spent more time with their daughters in Honolulu and enjoyed each other's company. The last twelve years was that of a renewed relationship.

In 1990 before this author got married, I took my fiance` to visit the Sakamoto family. Missus immediately said " Make sure you support your husband and help him with the club." Coach mean while turned to me and said quietly "love your wife, don't ever change her".

Farewell Missus, you have touched all of our hearts, and changed our lives forever.



Coach has pictures all over his living room walls. "Why put it in a album where no one will see it. Put it on the wall so you can see it everyday". I see Mary everyday, and these pictures makes her come alive!

When Mary was born in Nahiku, Maui; she was very sick with malaria. Her real Mother and Father couldn't care for her, so her second cousin cared and raised her thru adoption. Mary's adopted mother made all her clothes, which were simple dresses, nothing fancy or elaborate. She was raised in very humble beginnings. "This"coach said,"built her character".

She was an educated person, a bright future as the office manager at Maui telephone company and soon to be supervisor. A good listener, spiritual strength, disciplined, attractive, kind, gentle and had lots to offer. She was a very likable person and throughout the years, had made many friends.

Coach on the other hand, was a loaner. Hiking, fishing, camping was all by himself. He had no proven friends. Two months of his 11th grade and two months of his 12th grade year, he was out with serious illness. Far behind in his education, he barely passed and graduated. He was hopeless with nothing and just floundering. "God sent Mary to me, to stabilize me, in his master plan".

According to Coach, they had no mutual friends or common activities.

When Coach and Mary did get married, he bought her a $14.00 dollar ring. This was a reflection of his character and bank account at that time! With hardly anything in his bank account, this was the only thing he could afford.

In 1929 when they got married, Missus had to live with the prejudice of a mixed marriage. Her life was denied and spent caring for Coach and their children; Raymond, Janice, Donald and Renee. She accepted all of this, she sacrificed, didn't complain, listened to her husband and supported him when he had these wild ideas of developing Olympic swimmers. She was beyond patient.

For 52 of their 64 years of marriage, Mary answered the call. In the last 12 years, Coach did his best to get to know his wife. It was hard for Coach to leave the deck, but he realized that his partner, best friend and wife was slipping away from him. He loved her very much, she didn't have to make him retire, Coach just didn't want to loose her.