About a year ago in this space, we expressed our gratitude as a family to the community of Lahaina for its support in raising our daughter, Audrey, through her college education and a healthy start to a young adult life.
With the graduation of our son, Carson, a month ago from Willamette University, we were again emotionally moved in remembering the “Village of Lahaina” as the all-embracing family that nurtures its children to success.
Specifically, I think of the mentors in Carson’s life who have had a profound effect in building the character that has been the pathway to a rewarding life.
In his book “A Game Plan For Life — The Power of Mentoring,” the late, legendary basketball coach John Wooden focuses on the importance of sharing knowledge, experience and life lessons to forge a truly successful life.
“Mentors are all around us,” wrote Coach Wooden in the cover notes of the book. “Every piece of knowledge is something that has been shared by someone else. If you understand it as I do, mentoring becomes your true legacy. It is why you get up every day — to teach and be taught.”
Indeed, a keynote speaker at the Willamette commencement, Dr. Robert Langer — who has developed over 750 medical patents, including time-release medications, as the head of the MIT Langer Lab, the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world — implored the 450 Willamette graduates to go out into the world, make it a better place and to never stop their education.
Throughout Carson’s life, he has been surrounded by the warm breath of aloha that so much characterizes this Village of Lahaina. At Maria Lanakila Church, he has been given the gift of faith through the priests, staff and parishioners there. At Holy Innocents Preschool, he was given the foundation for healthy social interaction.
At Princess Nahienaena Elementary School, his academic education began, inspired most specifically by his first grade teacher, the late Phyllis Watanabe, and an introduction to computer technology from Jane Kupau, who passed away last month.
It was Watanabe who mentored Carson — and all of her students — in the importance and value of reading as her teaching emphasis. From her influence, Carson developed an insatiable thirst for reading that has opened the doors to knowledge for him.
Kupau mentored her students in introductory courses with computers, and Carson was a beneficiary of this cutting-edge electric journey to the essential technological knowledge of today.
At Lahaina Intermediate School, he was fortunate enough to gain the gift of mathematical curiosity under the tutelage of Katherine Brown. So moved was Carson by her succinct teaching method at LIS that he continued his education concentrating on math throughout his high school years at Lahainaluna — mentored by Julie Dicker and Dale Burns — and on through college. He graduated from Willamette with a degree in math.
Another important mentor in Carson’s life is Sensei Ed Fujiwara of the Japan Karate Association and Tetsubukan International. It was through Fujiwara Sensei’s guidance that he gained the values of respect, perseverance and tradition that led to earning the rank of Shodan (first-degree black belt) in the traditional martial art of karate-do.
Carson also participated in various sports during his childhood, including baseball, basketball and football. In these endeavors, he was influenced in a positive way by dozens of volunteer coaches within the West Maui Youth Basketball League, West Maui Little League and Lahaina Chiefs Pop Warner Football. He then went up to Lahainaluna and became a part of the Luna football program that would become a major factor in his future.
Under the guidance of the Luna coaching staff, particularly Head Coach Bobby Watson, Garret Tihada and Lanny Tihada, Carson learned the immeasurable values of teamwork and perseverance that will prove to be personality assets for success throughout his life.
He continued his football career at Willamette, where he played in every game, except for one that he missed due to injury, over his four years as a Bearcat, including a Northwest Conference championship run in the 2008 season.
In “A Game Plan For Life,” Wooden lists his father, Joshua Wooden, as his first mentor and tells of one important quote from him. “Make friendship an art form,” remembered Coach Wooden.
In this light then, it is clear that the Village of Lahaina has created a masterpiece in friendships for our family. Our neighbors — the Okada, Akiona, Olevao, Dolores, Kawahara and Asato families, and friends the Tihada, Casco, Robinson, Kukahiko, Miyamoto, Moon, Arakawa and Endsley families have all formed a comfort zone that we always feel at home in.
That support in the village extended to our employment with the Hyatt Regency Maui, TS Restaurants, Lahaina News and Samurai Gardeners.
And so, homeboy Carson is back — not with one, but two feet always in the sand. Leilani’s on the Beach has hired him back, and he is looking into teaching positions at Lahaina Intermediate School and at Lahainaluna. He will also help out with the Lunas’ defensive backs.
“Dad, this is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said to me a couple of weeks ago.
From all of us to all of you, thank you for making our dreams come true. God bless.