Waimea resident Kameichi Yawata, recently celebrated his 100th birthday at Ho’oNani Place surrounded by family, friends, and members of CrossFit Allstar where he works out each week.
Yawata was born at Waialua Hospital on Oahu’s North Shore, on Jan. 25, 1914. He was raised in the small town and attended school until ninth grade — the highest grade offered at that time. He took odd jobs in Waialua until 1941, at the age of 27, when he got a job with a Japanese wholesaler that sold Japanese and local goods. The job took him to Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai, though it did not bring him to Hawaii Island. When on Oahu, Kameichi would get off work at 3:30 p.m., then head over to his other job as a janitor for several businesses.
While doing some work on Maui, he was sent over to talk to someone at a local soda fountain. They didn’t buy much from him, but he did meet up with their salesgirl, Sylvia, and they fell in love. Sylvia and Kameichi Yawata were married when he was 36 years old, and they raised their son and daughter in Honolulu. At this point in his life, he left the Japanese wholesale store and became a candy salesman.
“Dentists best friend,” is a favorite quote of Yawata’s after mentioning this line of work. Eventually the candy store decided to sell different candies, so he went out on his own and started his own candy business since he already had the route and preferred his products. He retired at age 65 to help take care of his grandchildren. At that time, he went on his first trip out of Hawaii.
“It was a good trip,” Yawata said. “We went to the west coast and part of Canada.”
He and his wife also stopped by Disneyland for some fun. After this initial trip to the mainland, they started going to Las Vegas.
“We went on at least 20 trips,” he said, smiling. “We mostly played the slot machine. We didn’t win, you know, you put it all back.”
In 1997 his wife wasn’t feeling well and he couldn’t take care of her on his own in Honolulu, so he asked his son Ralph Yawata and daughter-in-law Priscilla to help them. The Waimea residents brought Kameichi and Sylvia back to their home and they lived all together for five years until Sylvia died. After 10 more years of being on his own in the ‘ohana at his son’s home, and a fall that landed him in the hospital and Hale Ho’ola in Honokaa, Ralph Yawata suggested that his father go over to Ho’oNani Place instead of sitting at home alone during the day.
“It helped me a lot because I was staying home all doing nothing,” Kameichi Yawata said.
Nowadays, he attends Ho’oNani Place six days a week. He works out doing Kupuna CrossFit and yoga classes, led by volunteer Michiko Sato, weekly. Administrators from CrossFit headquarters will be coming out to Waimea in February to do a documentary on Yawata and his Kupuna CrossFit athletes, who are pioneers for older adults who are more than 80 years old and deserve to feel confident, strong and capable through workouts with measurable results. KC Stallsmith, Yawata’s coach, couldn’t be more proud of the determination of her kupuna athletes, and can’t wait for the “whole world to know how amazing they are!” To celebrate Yawata’s birthday, his Kupuna CrossFit team helped him do 100 squats, with Yawata completing 60 on his own.
For Yawata’s 100th birthday, his son had offered to take his dad to Japan but he said he’d rather stay with his friends and celebrate at Ho’oNani. This past weekend, Kameichi’s daughter and son-in-law flew over from Oahu and they all gathered at Ho’oNani Place on Saturday with family, friends, coaches and medical professionals to enjoy good food and great company. Rob Decker volunteered his musical talents for the event.
With great humility, Yawata’s advice is to try to keep up what you’re doing, try to stay healthy and take one day at a time. When asked about turning 100 and being a CrossFit AllStar athlete, Yawata said, “If I can do it, you can do it!”