By Emi Suzuki

When I think of words to describe my Grandpa (Masaru) Sumida, I think of “fighter” and “survivor.” One of his greatest victories came out of his epic battle with the developers of Pearlridge Shopping Center in the early 1970s. At that time, our landlord, Kamehameha Schools (Bishop Estates), was prioritizing paving over the farmland and wetland areas of ‘Aiea for modern malls and shopping centers. The developers had grand plans to plug up the Kalauao Springs that flow throughout our farm and wanted to literally pave over paradise to put up a parking lot. Grandpa lobbied local legislators including the City Council and Gov. John Burns and rallied supporters with the farm bureau and community to block these plans. He said this was his greatest achievement. In the early 2000s, I met someone who was on the developer’s team in the 70s, who told me my Grandpa was a pain in the ass, but now as an old man himself, he couldn’t imagine Hawai’i without our watercress and our farm. My Grandpa would be so surprised and delighted to know our small farm outlived Sears, Monterey Bay Canners, and Circuit City. 

Sumida Farm surrounded by concrete desert

My Grandpa was like one of our farm cats, he had 9+ lives. He survived cancer, heart issues, pneumonia, multiple fishing and machinery injuries and more—his secret to a long life must have been having several Bud Lights a day, which were like his daily vitamins.

Masaru Sumida and Emi Suzuki

Grandpa loved the farm and also the ocean and was an avid deep sea fisherman. Along with his buddies, he founded the ‘Aiea Boat Club. My childhood memories include so many Boat Club uncles and aunties who would gather at the farm for beers marveling over their latest catch, sometimes hanging the biggest ones from our farm crane for photos.  These marlin were stored in our walk-in reefer that was specifically designed not for watercress, but to hold these massive fish.

Sumida Farm and Aiea Boat Club

Whenever the club caught a marlin they would gather to help clean and smoke it. Usually our family would get a nice hunk of fresh marlin sashimi and a couple chunks of smoked marlin for dinner, which I loved.

Masaru Sumida

In 2002, Kyle and I went out on one of my Grandpa’s last fishing trips on his beloved hand built boat, the Leko. I was always bad luck on fishing trips, but we got lucky that day and caught a perfect ono. It was so beautiful coming out of the water and my Grandpa puffed out his chest and told me and Kyle we were good luck—which was a pretty awesome blessing for my new boyfriend. We enjoyed the fish over an early New Years celebration and I sat at the dinner table with my Grandpa for hours hearing him tell me (on repeat) stories of his glory days. He ended each story by looking me in the eye and saying “I’m a lucky guy you know!”

Granpaʻs last fishing trip

I think he would be surprised to know it was me that decided to help manage the farm for the 4th generation. I was the only one of my generation to grow up on the mainland, and he probably envisioned one of my male cousins taking over, because he was old school in that way.

Shortly after Kyle (now my husband) and I raised our hands to help with the farm in 2018, I had a vivid dream. I was at the farm and my Grandpa was leaning on his cane next to machinery we were using to dig a ditch. He was wearing his typical green Sumida Farm t-shirt, worn khakis, slippers and trucker/farm hat. My dad was there talking to him and there was a lot of noise from the machinery. I pointed to the ditch and then at the farm and mouthed “thank you” to him. I knew he wouldn’t be able to hear me. I was telling him “thank you” for all his hard work at the farm over the years. He smiled and did his little joking face, wagging his cane at me and waved it away like “no big deal.”  Then he moved closer and said, “but who will take over after?” I pointed at myself and said, “Me!” He looked really surprised and then gave me a thumbs up as the dream faded. 

I wish my Grandpa, along with my Grandma and Aunty Barb, who have all passed away, could be here to help guide me through this transition. As we face challenges and crises, I often try to channel how they would have handled the situation. But the legacy of fighting, surviving and not giving up drives me to persevere and I hope to honor their sacrifices by working to ensure the farm continues for another generation and beyond. 


Masaru Sumida

1 comment

Bridget Corcoran

Oh Dear Emi this is such a beautiful and heartfelt story. You were destined to take over!!! Wishing you and Kyle continued success and happiness. The best part is Uncle Dave is still there too.
Still your Auntie Bridget.

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