Two Area Residents Honored As Mission’s 2013 ‘Living Treasures’

Each year, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii honors individuals with its Living Treasures of Hawaii Award. This time, two of the five honorees hail from West Oahu – Michael Nakasone of Aiea and Dennis Kauahi of Kapolei.

They will receive this recognition during a Feb. 9 luncheon at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

The award honors those who excel in their fields and have had a significant impact on the community.

After 26 years of teaching at Pearl City High School, four years at Mililani High, five years at Wahiawa Elementary School and almost six years as the director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, Nakasone currently serves as the band director for the wind ensemble and concert band at Punahou School, and also assists with the marching band.

“The best formal education that any child can receive is one that fosters a lifelong interest in learning,” Nakasone said. “Therefore, our greatest contribution to education is the lifelong interest in music that we have instilled in our students.”

This mantra that has continued to fuel his endeavors in music education and community involvement inspired him to create the Performing Art Center at Pearl City High School, in collaboration with principal Gerald Suyama, and various legislators in the district.

“The Performance Arts Center at Pearl City High School was a much-needed venue in the Leeward and Central Oahu districts,” explained Nakasone. “There was no available auditorium for school groups, band orchestra, choir, drama, dance and cultural groups to perform in.”

Recently, Nakasone returned from Washington, D.C., where the Punahou School marching band, JROTC and cheerleaders participated in the Inaugural activities, performing in the parade.

“They shared the spirit of aloha and their love for music with President Obama, thousands in D.C. and millions on television.”

The Living Treasures Award, he said, belongs to the students he has encountered and taught throughout his lifelong career as an educator.

“This award is the result of a collaboration of students, parents’ support and encouragement, administrators’ support, and teachers and government support,” noted Nakasone. “This prestigious award belongs to all of these wonderful people working together in unity and in the true spirit of ohana.”

Dennis Kauahi served as a supervisor at the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center for 42 years, integrating his knowledge and practice of the Hawaiian culture with his work. He worked to improve the lives of orphans and other under-privileged individuals and families.

Kauahi also spent his time working closely with students from the University of Hawaii School of Social Work to promote a practice called cultural-based social work. A unique practice, it seeks to incorporate the best Hawaiian healing practices, social work theories and intervention methods.

Currently, more than 1,500 orphans and children in need are directly assisted by the Children’s Center.

Kauahi could not be reached for comment.

For more information about the Living Treasures Award or to register for the luncheon, call 522-9200 or visit The registration deadline is Feb. 2.