Black mourning ribbons decorated more than 65 big rig trucks in honor of Kurt Okada who died in a trucking accident while working on June 1. The memorial service was held at the Kamuela Hongwanji Buddhist Temple followed by a convoy of trucks from Waimea to Kailua-Kona and back on last Saturday. (PHOTO BY JOCK GOODMAN| SPECIAL TO NHN)
With Waimea’s pu’us in the background, a convoy of more than big rig trucks traveled from Church Row in Waimea to Kailua-Kona and back in a memorial service remembering fellow trucker, Kurt Tai Okada, Oct 7, 1965-June 1, 2013. Kurt died in a trucking accident earlier this month and was remembered for his talent as a mechanic rebuilding old trucking vehicles and ATVs. He was prominent in Waimea’s annual lighted truck Christmas parade. At least one mourner came from Maui to honor him. (PHOTO BY JOCK GOODMAN| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Sporting memorial wreaths, flashing lights, blaring horns, and shiny wash jobs, more than 65 trucks convoyed from Waimea to Kailua Kona Saturday honoring fellow trucker, Kurt Tai Okada, who died in a trucking accident June 1. (PHOTO BY JOCK GOODMAN| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Okada Farms big rigs line up at Kamuela Hongwanji Temple Saturday at a memorial service for Kurt Okada who was killed in a trucking accident June 1 while working. The entire trucking community of Hawaii Island turned out to celebrate his life and to convoy more than 65 trucks to Kailua-Kona and back. (PHOTO BY JOCK GOODMAN| SPECIAL TO NHN
Kurt Okada’s yearly Christmas displays featured lights and Christmas characters that he left on his truck from Thanksgiving to Christmas. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ALAN ITO)
Kurt’s nephew, Gaison Okada, created a stand for his uncle’s urn that holds his tool belt made out of a pair of his uncle’s jeans. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ALAN ITO)
When Guylon Okada put a call out for big rig trucks to serve as escorts following his brother Kurt Tai Okada’s memorial service, he hoped a few friends from other trucking companies would show up.
But on Saturday afternoon, more than 65 “big rigs,” with horns blaring and lights blinking, formed a brigade with the family to take the remains of Kurt Okada on his favorite ride along the Mamalahoa Highway “top road” to Kailua-Kona and back along Queen Kaahumanu Highway.
“I made a few phone calls, but I didn’t expect that many (trucks),” said Guylon Okada.
More than 500 people attended the memorial service, and members of the community stood along Mamalahoa Highway to pay their respects as the long procession passed by.
The Waimea resident, who died at 47 years old, will especially be missed at Christmas, according to Guylon Okada.
“He had the best looking decorations on his truck,” Guyson Okada said. “Every year would be different.”
Each year, from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, Kurt Okada would have his semitrailer covered in lights, with a festive display in the back. Last year, he had Santa and other Christmas characters hooked up to a windshield wiper motor so they “danced” for the community to enjoy.
Kurt Okada was the fourth child of Yoshie and Alex Nobue Okada, prominent Waimea farmers. He was born into the agricultural family with older siblings Diane (Ito), Guylon and Clint, and younger brother Rockwell.
Kurt attended Waimea Elementary and Intermediate School and graduated from Honokaa High School in 1983. After high school, he helped operate the family farm. When it closed, he moved to trucking.
“He loved driving,” said his sister, Diane, showing a photo of her brother on a tractor as a youth. “That is what he loved to do.”
But Kurt Okada’s talents went beyond trucking.
All of his friends and family members have special items in their houses generously and meticulously built by Kurt Okada – a gazebo with matching bird house, an arch arbor, dog houses, a life-like model of a truck, an entertainment center, a retrofitted couch to accommodate his friend’s father who needed assistance – all done with Okada’s signature passion for detail and his selfless devotion to helping others.
“It was his ‘can do’ attitude,” said his brother-in-law, Alan Ito, of what he would remember most about Okada. “Whatever he set his mind to, he could do it. … Whenever family would call, he would be right there.”
“He was an all-around nice guy,” said Okada’s best friend, Alan Winters. “He was always willing to help people. He did one of our friends a favor, so he could get our friend to help my father. But the guy would have helped my father anyway. That was just the kind of guy Kurt was. … He was always helping others. “
Okada even made an entertainment center for his sister that he built at his house, shipped over to her in Honolulu in parts, then he flew over and assembled it for her in her home.
“If Kurt made it, it was going to work,” said his friend, Blane Mitsunami, who was the recipient of the coach modification.
Kurt Okada’s brother, Rocky, said when he bought a house in Waikoloa, his brother helped to build a rock retaining wall for him.
“He learned on the job,” Rocky Okada said. … He was a quick learner.”
Kurt found a broken roller rusting in the grass. With permission of the owner, he brought it home and restored it to perfect working condition, complete with yellow paint and fabricated stickers, to the amazement of family and friends.
But the legacy Kurt Okada will pass on most will be his devotion, his patience and his investment of time to the youth in his life, especially his nephews and his friends’ children, including Anuhea and Alex Winters – all of whom he treated like his own children.
“My kids looked at him like he was their dad,” said Kara Onaka-Winters. “He showed them how to build things and not to get frustrated.”
“While harvesting, he would always keep the mood light and fun while making sure the task at hand was getting completed,” Kurt Okada’s nephew, Justin Ingalls, said of his uncle in his eulogy. “Uncle Kurt was extremely unselfish. With any job, he would try to give you the easier task, and if you felt his was easier, he would give you the option to switch as long as you were able to get the job done. He was always thinking of others, with anything that he did.”
Okada’s nephew, Cade Ito, said his uncle taught him how to “drive stick and how to properly wash a car.”
“We will remember that he could make us feel safe in everything we did together,” Ito said. “From situations like the dangers of driving the boat in the middle of breaching humpback whales, to simple tasks like driving us safely back to Waimea, he would always make us feel safe.”