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
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
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
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
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
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.