In 1995, Uekawa took on the challenges of managing Nissan. The decision to do so was supported by his wife who encouraged
holy days. Thus, the Uekawas came to Maryknoll, which proved to be mutually beneficial. His children received a top-
He volunteered to take on the humungous task of raising money for the building of the gym – one that his own children would never be able to use during their time at Maryknoll. him to “do it!” The first five years were a test of his grit as he struggled to establish a successful dealership. Leaving before sunrise and returning late at night, he was never home to watch his children grow up, especially his son, who was born the same year. To keep everyone unified, Sally would bring the kids to the dealership and they would have dinner together. It was family time, and she was a fabulous cook. Uekawa said, “Sally was the rock,” and she instilled the children with strong morals and values. In fact, when he first met Sally, he knew that she was too good to pass up and that he’d do whatever it takes to keep her. They have been together for twenty-nine years. In hindsight, it was Sally’s unwavering catholic upbringing that eventually brought the family to Maryknoll. Initially, the children attended a small catholic school on the windward side – a school that was in financial straits. Uekawa joined the school board, brought in some business savvy gentlemen, and within a year, affected a complete turnaround. The school, once facing closure, was no longer in debt and was now on the healthy road to recovery. In the meantime, the family sought a middle school and high school that would best fit their growing children. After visiting several campuses in town, they knew that they would choose Maryknoll School. Deciding factors included not only great academics, but also a strong catholic program. Sally liked the celebration of all-school masses and the observance of 32
notch catholic education, and in return, the school would reap the expertise of a sportsman and entrepreneur. In the area of softball, Uekawa took on the coaching of the Maryknoll girl’s team in 2004. His 8th grade daughter, Hillary had joined the team, and that prompted him to become involved. It was the perfect combination: love for his daughter; love for the sport. The intermediate team, which usually won one or two games each season – if they were lucky – won all of their games (9-0) that first year. Uekawa has since moved to the high school and now works with the Varsity team. As coach, he realized that female athletes were never featured on television, rarely seen in newspapers, and did not have championship tournaments that showcased the best female talents in the state. Why was everything centered on male athletic prowess? This was the start of his fight for gender equity, and he brought it to everyone’s attention by organizing the first New City Nissan Goodwill Classic Tournament. Top senior female athletes from different schools around the state would be chosen to play on one of four all-star teams. The tournament was held after the regular season and because of Uekawa’s sponsorship, the game was televised on OC16. The popularity of the 2006 Goodwilll Classic is confirmed by the fact that, a decade after its inception, it continues to be held.
Notably, Maryknoll softball athletes have participated each year. A future goal: Uekawa would like to see the Maryknoll Softball team win a State Championship, so he continues to coach, from 3:30-7:00 p.m., six days a week. He’s in his twelfth year. Besides the Goodwill Tournament, New City Nissan has since expanded to sponsoring the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) for both men and women’s sporting events. Once involved in the school, Uekawa brought his business know-how into play. He volunteered to take on the humungous task of raising money for the building of the gym – one that his own children would never be able to use during their time at Maryknoll. But, with the attitude of “We do it because we must,” Uekawa, Sally, and Keith and Peggy Chock, whose children also attended the school, spearheaded the raising of one million dollars to build the gym – and met their goal. Uekawa shared, that earlier this year, Mr. Perry Martin had made an appointment to meet at the dealership. Uekawa immediately thought: “Oh, oh, the school president is coming to fire me.” In his many dealings with school administrators, staff, teachers, parents, and students – perhaps, just perhaps, Uekawa had rubbed someone the wrong way. He had pushed too far, and now, it had caught up with him. So it was with great surprise that Mr. Martin had come to announce that Uekawa had been selected to receive the 2016 Noblesse Oblige Award for service at the annual Charles A. Kekumano Award and Scholarship Dinner. The recognition of his achievements include, but is not limited to: devoted family man, professional businessman, unflinching commitment to community service, respected coach, crusader for social justice, and practitioner of Noblesse Oblige. In brief, Uekawa has added another chapter to the modern day Horatio Alger story and shows once again that grit, or how “one faces major obstacles and challenges; how you deal with them, and become the best you can be” is what success is all about. Uekawa smiled when he recalled Mr. Martin’s visit, but he wasn’t the only one. Uekawa’s father, now 91 years old, had always fervently prayed that the “black sheep” son of the family would settle down, stop causing trouble, and make something of himself. Without a doubt – his prayers have been answered. Congratulations to John Uekawa, the 2016 Kekumano Honoree, and “the man behind the wheel.”