Lani Kay Nakama-Elschlager
I knew very little about my Dad's history because he
rarely talked about it when I was growing up. He was nearly 40
when I was born. We did spend time with him on weekends swimming
at the Athletic Club. The time he had with us he would make his
favorite foods that I would later appreciate as part of my heritage.
He always took us to movies, fishing or something. He was surrounded
by lots of friends.
Although he would tell us about Uncle Keo swimming from one island to another. I never new Dad's swimming accomplishments until his second stroke and Uncle Keo's for that matter too. That's when we had to move his belongings to my home while he remained in the hospital and later moved to a nursing home (he was unable to talk, eat, and walk). He did understand though. While I sat with him in the hospital I would leaf through his old high school year book. I would show him photos and ask yes/no questions to him. His eyes would fill with tears remembering.
I learned that Keo was coaching his high school team that year. I did read a note to him that Keo sent him during his confinement and it also saddened him. I know he would have liked to see Keo and go back to Hawaii one more time. The grand-children would make him laugh. They would argue who would get to help Grampa do his exercises and who would get the sponge-on-the-stick to wet his lips.
In 1979 Keo was in Columbus, Ohio and was inducted into the Ohio State University Hall of Fame. Dad and Keo stopped by before going back to the airport. I was 17 years old at the time and in a full body cast and did not realized the honor my uncle received that day. Dad also was there every weekend while I was in my cast (for 9 months) making rice, teriyaki, or something.
I married and moved to Florida for 10 years and came back home in 1994. I'm glad I did get to spend some time with him and my children also. Dad lived in an apartment in Hilliard, Ohio close to my brother Mark and his family. He would swim in the summer in the pool nearby and at the campgrounds Mark belonged to in the winter with his family. After moving back up to Ohio we would try to get together at least once a week.
Bunny Nakama was born July 10th, 1923 in Puunene, Maui. He was the younger brother of Keo Nakama. He was an original member of the Three Year Swim Club and Hawaii Swim Club. When he was only 16 years old, he won 1st place in 1940 National Championships in Santa Barbara, California in the AAU 1 mile free style representing the Hawaii Swim Club. The team lost it's chance to go to the Olympics due to the war, but continued to compete nationally and continue to break records.
From 1944 to 1946 Bunny served in the United States Army. He also participated in the 1945 "Allied Sports Commission" in Rome, Italy. My Uncle gave me one of his medals (1st Place - 1945 Frankfurt Enclave Championship - 800 meter relay -- age 22). I'll have to ask my unlce about this one.
In 1948 (age 25) he left for Ohio State University with swimming coach Mike Peppe. He was a varsity O member and All American of O.S.U.'s swim team. In 1949, the Ohio State Swim Team were the Western Conference & NCAA Champions.
In 1963, at the age of 40, he was Citywide Handball Singles Champion and Runner-up in the Citywide Doubles. Bunny worked for the Columbus Athletic Club and retired in 1986. During his retirement he was a VFW member, enjoyed swimming and spending time with his grand-children. The kids could never understand how he could make that water squirt so far from his hands.