Hilo — As a businessman, community leader, volunteer and philanthropist, Barry Taniguchi led a life that touched thousands.
On Friday, the community responded, as hundreds showed up at the Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin to bid aloha to the chairman and CEO of KTA Super Stores, who died Sept. 20 at the age of 72.
Some waited two to three hours in line during visitation to pay their respects and express their condolences to Taniguchi’s wife, Sandy, his five children, Tracy, Toby, Terri, Amanda and Ryan, and their respective families. Police were assigned to direct traffic on Kilauea Avenue and overflow parking was provided at the former Hilo Lanes bowling alley with shuttle buses to the service.
Those who stayed for the service filled the church, and hundreds of others viewed it on a live video feed in a downstairs room and at Sangha Hall. Those in attendance included Gov. David Ige, Mayor Harry Kim, University of Hawaii President David Lassner, County Council Vice Chairwoman Karen Eoff, captains of business and industry and everyday people.
A lei-bedecked photo of Barry Taniguchi adorned the front of the altar, and so many floral arrangements lined the worship hall that Kim remarked afterward that he had “never seen so many flowers in one place.” Before and during the memorial service, the scent of incense from the sanctuary wafted into the downstairs video room.
“Isn’t it like Barry to afford us this wonderful opportunity to all come together, and to meet, and to get to talk story and to know one another?” observed Ivan Nakano, longtime friend of Taniguchi’s and the service’s emcee.
“Now, knowing Barry T., he would take this opportunity to reach over to the persons to the left and to the right, yeah, and look them in the eye and say, ‘You’re someone special every day at KTA,’” Nakano quipped, eliciting prolonged laughter by invoking the supermarket chain’s ubiquitous slogan.
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Bishop Eric Matsumoto officiated the service and described the massive turnout as “an expression of gratitude and appreciation, and also in recognition and acknowledgment of his tremendous contributions to society, to all of us.”
“It’s not an overstatement that today, our whole community mourns the passing of a person of great statute and a dear friend,” the bishop said.
“According to Barry, his grandfather always said, ‘A family business only survives if the community supports us. So it is our obligation to support the community,’” Matsumoto recalled. “Further, Barry said, ‘Money is important. But people and brainpower are critical. We look to give money to all those who impact our community. When we join with others, we combine our resources, we make a meaningful impact.’
“I believe this is why Barry was so involved in so many organizations throughout our state.”
The eulogy was delivered by Dwayne Miyashiro, a friend of Taniguchi’s since childhood. He described Taniguchi as “a pillar of the community” and “a team player, a communicator and a leader.”
Turning to Taniguchi’s children, Miyashiro said, “Please know that your dad has left a legacy that you can be proud of — and that we are grateful for. So what are the values that permeate the Taniguchi DNA? Humility, integrity, commitment, gratitude and kindness. These traits made Barry, as he was known as an unselfish contributor to our community, an independent thinker, a very humble and gracious person — and to many of us, a loyal friend with a heart full of aloha.”
Toby Taniguchi, KTA’s president who took over everyday operations of the seven-store chain from his father in 2014, became emotional as he described Barry Taniguchi’s “extraordinary life.”
“Growing up, Dad was quite a busy man. He was always enveloped in work or community endeavors. But he was never, ever too busy to stop and take time for you,” the fourth-generation KTA chief executive said.
“I remember once, when I was in fifth grade, I had procrastinated on a report that was due the next day. And in the eleventh hour, I gave him a call and said, ‘Hey, I need your help. I also need to borrow your computer, your printer. And he told me, ‘Come over. Come over to the store.’ And that night, I spent the entire night with him in his office over in Puainako. And it was the first time in my memory that I was able to spend that large of a block of time with him. And, needless to say, the report was done. I believe I earned a good mark on it.
“But at the end of the day … what struck me was that it really felt good that Dad would put aside his work and help me. … And all us kids needed to do was just stop and ask. And he would always be there.
“If Dad were standing here today, he’d want to say to you, ‘Okage sama de. I am what I am because of you, thanks to you.’ He’d want to say thank you for being his friend; thank you for sharing in his life. He’d say he was humbled and honored to have you here. And I think he would say that he loved you all very much.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.