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West Maui community loses Susumu ‘Peanut’ Sodetani

By Staff | Aug 7, 2014


I will always remember the awe and admiration I felt as I entered the Wahikuli home of Susumu “Peanut” Sodetani last year. We were introduced and shook hands, and I was immediately taken by the firm grip, the warm, engaging gaze, and the keen memory of the then-97-year-old lifelong Lahaina resident.

Along with committee Chairman Bob Kawaguchi, I was researching the sports and recreation activities of the historic Pioneer Mill employee camps, where Sodetani and many, many other West Side immigrant families toiled and set the cultural traditions that formed the foundation of the Lahaina community of today.

We were working on a project to display this part of the camp culture at the Lahaina Plantation Days event last fall and came to interview him, because he was a baseball proponent of that era.

However, what I walked away with from that interview runs much deeper than just the contributions of Sodetani around diamond games.

Sodetani passed away on June 5, at age 98, to join his wife, Mary, in Heaven, but the Lahaina community will forever retain the inspiration they have given to the generations to follow here on the West Side. That memory will be a lasting reverence to family, a strong work ethic and the value of leadership in youth sports activities.

Mary and Susumu raised four children (all now grown with families of their own), worked lifelong careers at Pioneer Mill and helped set the foundations and traditions for Little League Baseball and softball in the camp community. Susumu coached the Lahaina Red Sox to prominence not only on Maui but down to the Big Island, where he helped start a home and home series with the Waiakea Uka Tigers.

That community cultural exchange that involved the Little League teams from both communities traveling to enjoy a weekend in Hilo or Lahaina lasted for 50 wonderful years, with the last hurrah taking place in 2004.

Such beautiful memories are priceless, and the joy of the recollections will continue to bolster the community’s will to be pono in all ways.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to daughters Margie Wong and Amy (Jim) Provines; sons Clayton (Margaret) Sodetani and Eric (Charlotte) Sodetani; and siblings Mitsue Onaka, Takushi Sodetani and Matsue Shimizu.

Susumu is also survived by 11 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life service was held at Waiola Church in Lahaina on July 26. May the peace of the Lord be with you always.