Washington, DC . Hiroshi Arisumi, Chairman of Arisumi Brothers, a commercial construction company, and a patriot, died on March 8, 2019 at the age of 98. Arisumi quit school at age 12 to work as a day laborer at the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company to help support his family. As a carpenter he repaired and built dwellings for the plantation’s employees, built bridges across canals and other carpentry work.
When the War Department issued a call for volunteers to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), Arisumi volunteered. Because of his carpentry skills he was assigned to the 232nd Engineer Company. The enemy destroyed bridges, mined the rivers, fields and canals and felled large trees to block the roadways to impede the advancing Americans. The Engineers tasks were to cope with these impediments and to create mine fields, search for and deactivate mines, build bridges and roads and clear the path for the tanks, trucks and infantrymen to advance forward. Arisumi told David Fukuda in an oral history interview “In fact our platoon we really got bust up over there. Fortunately, I never got hit, but, gee, almost one half of the platoon got hit”. Combat Correspondent Lyn Crost’s Honor by Fire, page 257, described the Engineers job this way: “The engineers’ job was one of the worst in the Combat Team. . . . too often, they had to use their weapons to remain alive under enemy fire. . . . The infantry couldn’t have won battles without the support of the engineers. . . . Food and ammunition could get to infantryman so that they could push the retreating enemy faster and harder. And, in this fight for the west coast of Italy, the 232nd Engineer Company shared with the 100th Battalion a Distinguished Unit Citation for ten days of bitter action, April 5 to 14, 1945.”
As an Army engineers non commissioned officer, Arisumi gained first hand experience on how to build structures, discipline and organization. Along the way he learned carpentry at Maui Vocational School. Upon his discharge from the Army, Arisumi was employed by the US Army and US Navy in Honolulu. The Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company offered him a job as supervisor, however, he politely declined and in 1952 along with his brother Mitsuo, formed a partnership called Arisumi Brothers. Their specialty was to build starter homes and later specialized in commercial buildings.
Arisumi purchased a two acre farm property in the Maui countryside which had 50 persimmon trees. He took personal pride in tending these trees, planting other fruit trees, and sharing the bountiful harvests with his neighbors and the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center (NVMC) complex.
When his children were young he took them to Disneyland and to other cities on the west coast of the mainland where Nisei veterans reunions were held. When the children grew up they took Dad in 2014 on a two week trip to Italy and France to visit locations where he fought. He was accorded a hero’s welcome wherever he visited such as Bruyeres where the towns people held a reception at City Hall in his honor.
Arisumi was passionately committed to preserving the legacy of the WW II generation. He served as a member of the board of NVMC for 25 years and as its president for 23 years. He provided the leadership that led to the construction of the NVMC Education Center in 2013, the Kansha Pre School Building and the Maui Adult Daycare Center, both built in 2006 and all three located on the same campus in Wailuku. Leonard Oka, founder of Maui Sons and Daughters of 442nd veterans, said “it took 30 years to raise funds for the construction of the NVMC”. Submitting the lowest bid, Arisumi Brothers won the construction contract. Oka was impressed with Arisumi’s style, negotiating skills, and courtesies. “Mr Arisumi was like a rock, when he spoke people listen”, Oka said. Arisumi said the NVMC building is a memorial to the WW II soldiers who did not return and he is pleased with the Sons and Daughters initiative and commitment. When the JAVA Newsletter reporter commended the Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans for their community work, Oka said, “Our Issei Grandparents and our Nisei parents worked hard to give the Sansei generation the education and other opportunities that allowed us to live a comfortable life. It also allowed us the freedom to reach out and contribute to our communities. How else do we assure that the legacy our fathers fought for, will continue to benefit future generations”?
NVMC has honored Arisumi by naming the preschool building as the Hiroshi and Edna Arisumi Kansha Pre school Building and the Education Workroom in NVMC building as the Arisumi Brothers, Inc. workshop. In 2005 Arisumi was elected as NVMC President Emeritus. He received the Nihon Bunka Award from the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui and the Japanese Imperial Order of the Rising Sun from the Government of Japan. The French government presented him with its prestigious Legion of Honor and his own government the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation and campaign ribbons.
JAVA Research Team