Services, events planned to remember Alfreida Fujita

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KAILUA-KONA — From Kona coffee to Kona history, from the craft of lauhala to supporting women in business, Alfreida Fujita’s impact in Kona spans throughout the region and abroad.

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KAILUA-KONA — From Kona coffee to Kona history, from the craft of lauhala to supporting women in business, Alfreida Fujita’s impact in Kona spans throughout the region and abroad.

“She was like ‘Ambassador of Kona,’” said Fujita’s daughter, Renee Kimura.

Fujita, 90, died Sunday, July 16, Kimura said.

“This lady had ideas,” said Norman Sakata, who worked with Fujita for more than 40 years on the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. “She was an endless list of ideas.”

When she was younger, Fujita’s grandfather would tell her that the world is a small place and the more she became involved in her community, the clearer that rang true for her.

“As she became involved with so many different organizations … she came to realize and understand what her grandfather meant,” said Kimura.

Her contributions ranged from her involvement with the Kona Historical Society to the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival to the Kona Business and Professional Women’s club and beyond.

Last month, Fujita shared her own experiences growing up in Kona, experiences she recounted at a panel discussion hosted by the Kona Historical Society.

Fujita was the granddaughter of a merchant, she told a rapt crowd, but that didn’t exempt her from the busy life of work in Kona’s coffee fields, she said.

“Because you were a merchant’s child it doesn’t mean that you stay in the store and just play around,” she said to the crowd. “We had to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning or 5 o’clock and to get down to pick coffee.”

The industry affected her schooling as well, she added, with summer breaks timed so children could help with the harvest.

“So there’s no summer vacation for us,” she said. “And winter months? For me, winter months was two weeks during December. My grandfather had a cotton field, and I had to pick cotton until I was a freshman.”

“And I hated it,” she added, prompting laughs from the crowd.

It was a life she was very proud of, her daughter said.

“They knew what hard work was and they weren’t afraid to work,” she said.

Others in the community also praised Fujita’s efforts to keep the history of Kona coffee alive in the area, particularly with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.

“I ran the festival for 19 years,” said Sakata on Saturday. “And sure enough, without Alfreida I would never, never have gotten this far.”

Sakata said he and Fujita were schoolmates at Holualoa School as children, but it was when they both became involved with the festival more than 40 years ago that they grew close.

Fujita, Sakata said, could always be counted on for solid counsel and the ability to connect people in the community.

“In all the years I’ve been in the festival, I always consulted Alfreida,” he said. “Always.”

And he wasn’t the only one, he said, saying committees often looked to Fujita for a connection or advice.

He also credited her with bringing fresh ideas to the table and keeping the festival’s focus where it needed to be.

“Very big loss to us,” he said of Fujita’s death. “But she did so much that we can carry on in her name.”

Fujita’s legacy also extend to her efforts to preserve Kona’s history through her close and extended involvement with the Kona Historical Society.

“Whenever you went somewhere with Alfreida, whether it was to an event for nonprofits in Hawaii, a club meeting, a restaurant, the airport, a hotel in Honolulu, Ala Moana Shopping Mall or anything on or off island, it was like you were traveling with a celebrity,” said KHS executive director Joy Holland in a statement from the organization. “She knew everyone. And everyone knew her — and loved her.”

The group credited Fujita, who has been a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors since 2002, with making the Kona Coffee Living History Farm a reality, saying her efforts were “essential to its creation” as a historic site in 1999.

The Kona Historical Society this week announced plans to remember Fujita with events planned for Saturday, Aug. 5.

At 10 a.m. that day at the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum in Kealakekua, KHS staff along with the Hawaii Business and Professional Women, Kona chapter, will hold prayer and reflection followed by coffee.

The KHS Kona Coffee Living History Farm, located off Highway 11, Mamalahoa Highway, will be open to the public at no charge from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. that same day, with lighting of incense throughout the day.

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The farm will close the day’s programs at 1:30 p.m. with a sake toast in Fujita’s honor. No reservations are necessary.

A visitation and service are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 12 at the Daifukuji Soto Mission in Honalo. Visitation begins at 9:30 a.m. with service to follow at 11 a.m. Kimura said attire is casual.