Senate Honors Pearl City Kupuna For A Century Of Service

State Sen. Clarence and Lynn Nishihara (far right) visit Tomi Adaniya (seated) and her family to present her with a certificate from the state Senate honoring her accomplishments and celebrating her 100th birthday. Photo from Sen. Nishihara.

Tomi Adaniya’s wit and sense of humor are obvious to those who meet her, and according to her family, it is these two character traits that add to the 100-year-old’s longevity.

For reaching that milestone in her life, Adaniya recently was honored by the state Senate with a certificate delivered by Sen. Clarence Nishihara, District 18 (Waipahu, Pearl City, Crestview), who visited this kupuna at her Pearl City home while campaigning on foot in the neighborhood one day.

Along with the certificate, Nishihara and wife Lynn also brought Adaniya a birthday cake and sang her “Happy Birthday.”

Upon knocking on the family’s door and talking story with them, Nishihara said he was able to learn a little bit about Adaniya’s life, and he felt honored to have someone like Adaniya hail from his district.

Adaniya was born Nov. 24, 1911, in Waipahu. When she was 2, her mother returned to Okinawa to care for her family and took Adaniya and her two brothers along while her father stayed in Hawaii to work on the sugar plantation. Adaniya returned to Hawaii as a teenager, but did not know how to speak English.

After her return to Hawaii, she married and had a large family.

“We were poor, and she had a lot of kids to raise,” Adaniya’s daughter Mildred said. “She used her ingenuity to survive without having government aid. With 10 kids, one right after another, sometimes we didn’t have shoes to wear, but I always remember we had clothes on our backs and food to eat and shelter. But that’s largely due to my mother.”

Mildred recalled that a wealthy Chinese family in their neighborhood would donate its clothes to the family, and Adaniya would rip out the stitches and make her own patterns.

“Like I said, she had a limited education, she didn’t go to sewing school, but she would take off the stitches and keep them as a pattern and make clothes accordingly.”

The family also had cloth rice bags, and Adaniya would boil the cloth. It often came in red-and-white checkered patterns, and she would use that as fabric to make shirts. During this time, she also helped her husband raise pigs in Kalihi and Waianae.

As she got older, Adaniya found time to give back to her community, as well. She volunteered to serve food and help clean up at a senior citizens center in Pearl City and received many certificates. Some of the most notable were certificates of appreciation signed by the mayor in 1983, 1985 and 1988.

While in her 80s, Adaniya enrolled at the DOE Community School for Adults at Aiea High School and then at Waipahu High School to learn English. Most of her classmates at the Waipahu Adult Community School were in their 20s and 30s, and were impressed by her dedication.

“I think the other students in the class were impressed by her diligence in studying,” noted Mildred.

Adaniya truly is an amazing woman with an amazing story who exemplifies that the right attitude and outlook on life can help a person accomplish anything.