The secret to Violet Nishijima’s happiness
(On Intergenerational Day on March 12 at Lahaina Intermediate School, Lahaina Complex After School Tutors from Lahainaluna High School interviewed West Maui kupuna to write their biographies. This is the first in a series.)
LAHAINA — “Happy, thankful and grateful” are three words that my senior citizen, Violet Nishijima, told me are a sum of her life. Violet, a beautiful and kind spirit, is one of the ladies among the senior citizens who have volunteered their time to come and help out with the “Furlough Friday” fun day for the young kids.
Violet was born in 1924 in the Kilauea region of Lahaina. Her family consisted of just her and her parents living in Hawaii, while her other siblings were still in Japan. Her parents were immigrants traveling from Japan, knew little English and were old age. Violet had a hard time adjusting to that.
“I always envied the other kids because their parents were young, and I wanted my parents to come to the PTA meetings at Kamehameha III (King Kamehameha III School), but they didn’t know any English,” she said.
Her fondest memories were going to Queen Theater to watch movies, watching beautiful stage shows at the Nippon Theater and playing with her friendly neighbors of Wainee Village in the Lahaina Pump area.
Wainee Village had homes built for the plantation workers, and she resided in a humble abode of three bedrooms decorated with Japanese futons, living room, verandah and kitchen. She could take a five-minute walk to the community bath house.
She knew her husband, Kiden, for about a year until they married and moved into another house on Front Street. They had four children: one living with her in Wahikuli, one in California, one residing in Hilo and one that passed away.
Growing up, she loved the summertime, when there
were Bon Festivals, and New Year’s, when there was plentiful food to eat.
She takes a special liking toward her Japanese heritage — she’s fluent in Japanese and knows how to write as well — and so did her husband. He was president of Lahaina Jodo Mission and an active member in the temple.
She lost her husband in 1999, but Violet knew him as the smartest, richest, kindest and most religious person in the world. Her love for her husband and her children was
palpable in her enthusiasm in describing them.
Today, Violet is an active participant at the West Maui Senior Center, where she attends weekly activities. Sewing, one of her pastimes, is one of the activities that she loves to do, as well as gardening, which she first learned when she was a young girl growing up. She also loves to do craft sessions at her church and enjoys traveling. She has been all over the world, from Las Vegas to China, and Australia to New Zealand. But her favorite place was Japan. She loved the food and scenery, especially in the springtime, where she saw all the beautiful cherry blossoms in the trees.
Within 20 minutes, I’ve gotten to know Violet, and she truly is an amazing lady. She has been faithful to her family and loving and compassionate toward her friends. She’s a beautiful soul with a great character and an infectious laugh, and there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel comfortable.
As an elder talking to a member of this generation, she told me, “Study hard, follow the rules and regulations, and respect your elders.” Her kind words have enlightened me, and in her eyes I could see she was speaking from her heart.
If I could describe Violet in one word, it would be happy. I asked her to translate it in Japanese and it meant “ureshii.” I know if I’m as faithful and patient as Mrs. Nishijima, I will be “happy, thankful and grateful” for the rest of my life.