Shimeji Ryusaki Kanazawa was born in Kamuela, Hawaii, the eldest of Torazo and Saki Ryusaki's 11 children. Her father was a "jack-of-all-trades" who worked in Waipio Valley growing taro and making okolehao, worked for Parker Ranch as a cowboy and mechanic, ran a garage and a taxi business, and grew and sold vegetables around the island. Her mother was a "picture bride" from Shizuoka, Japan, who made tofu, farmed, raised animals, sold vegetables, saved money, and cared for 11 children spaced approximately 2 years apart.
Auntie Shim grew up surrounded by shining examples of selflessness. Despite their own hardships, Auntie Shim's parents wanted the best for her and somehow found the funds to send her to Hilo to complete her intermediate and high school educaton. Alone without her family and friends, Auntie Shim began to uncontrollably stutter until a kind teacher took her under her wing and built her confidence by letting her work in the office. Auntie Shim was also deeply moved by her younger sister Emiko who demonstrated remarkable compassion for others even as she lay dying at the age of 12.
In fact, Auntie Shim would later credit Emiko as her inspiration for her own relentless concern for others. During WWII she became the chief liason between the Japanese community and the marshal law military government when the Swedish Consulate took over the Japanese Consulate during the war. In this role, she often used her own funds to help the families being separated by internment. After the war, she Co-Chaired a Committee that established the Family Court in Hawaii. For more than 60 years, she championed care for the elderly (our kupuna), founded Project Dana (a volunteer interfaith based program designed to help the elderly in their homes), and was made a lifetime member of the State Policy Advisory Board for Elderly Affairs by Governor Abercrombie.
Shimeji Ryusaki Kanazawa
- Born December 29, 1915
- aka "Shim" and "Auntie Shim"
- "mom" and "grandma"
- Kamuela girl with the "Red Cross Heart"
- The WWII "Florence Nightingale of Hawaii"
- Founder of Project Dana
- Lifetime Member of PABEA
- Sadly left us on April 7th, 2014.
This site is dedicated to celebrating and sharing stories and pictures of Auntie Shim's life and to express a deep mahalo to all who kindly gave so much of themselves to enhance Auntie Shim's life.