On the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Emi Ige’s father was finishing up his night shift as a civilian worker at the site when the planes came in.
Thankfully, her father came out of the attack unscathed, but said little about what happened that day.
“He would not discuss it,” says Ige, who was a young child at the time. “As we grew older, we heard things like he had to go in the next day to clean up, and that must have been a bad memory … but he never did mention anything.”
In 1998, shortly after retiring from a career in retail management, Ige saw an announcement seeking volunteers to help at Pearl Harbor on the USS Missouri, and she jumped at the chance.
“It piqued my interested, because I thought of my dad,” Ige says. “I just had an inclination that maybe I could see what had happened.”
For the last 15 years, Ige has been an active volunteer with the Battleship Missouri Memorial. When she first started, the ship recently had been brought into Pearl Harbor, and Ige helped to get it ready for guests to come aboard.
“At the beginning, it was not much like you see now,” Ige recalls, adding that it had previously been “mothballed” for more than 30 years. After refurbishing the battleship, Ige began leading tours, often conducting up to four tours each day. She would take large groups around the ship, teaching them about the Pearl Harbor attack and the history of the Missouri.
These days, a leg condition prevents Ige from doing so much walking, but she doesn’t let that stop her from continuing to work with the memorial. Just as involved as ever, Ige assists in the tours office, filing paperwork and keeping records. For her efforts, Ige has received numerous awards and honors, including the Truman Centennial Award for being an outstanding senior volunteer.
But despite her achievements, Ige seems much more eager to talk about the contributions of others.
“There are many people who have a hand in (the memorial). The people who work here are very dedicated,” Ige says. “We even get volunteers from the Mainland who spend their vacation on the ship.”
For Ige, the importance of her work comes from her desire to share the history of Pearl Harbor with others.
“It is a great memorial,” she says. “It is our history what happened in Hawaii, so everybody should know about it.
“I just enjoy being there,” Ige adds. “And if God willing, if I am heathy enough, then I will still do my best to help them out.”