In the Twilight of His Life - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

In the Twilight of His Life

Posted on January 22, 2011

by Dr. Edna Hussey on January 22, 2011

On January 24, 2009, I wrote in a blog entry posted to the MPI website:

The Year 1902 -- the first movie theater in the US opens in Los Angeles; a record car speed of 74 mph is reached in France; Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first American President to ride in an automobile.  Langston Hughes (poet), Charles Lindbergh (aviator), Ansel Adams (photo journalist), John Steinbeck (writer), Richard Rodgers (composer), and Samuel Haga, Mid-Pacific Institute's oldest living alumnus, Class of 1924, are born! Mr. Haga joined us at last week's monthly assembly so that the children could celebrate his 107th birthday at his alma mater (his actual birthdate is January 19). Although unable to speak, his eyes widened when the children sang, and he nodded his head ever so slightly when his daughter, Betty Koike ('54), whispered in his ear that the children had prepared hand-drawn birthday cards for him. Mr. Haga, a former teacher and writer, provided a pencil for every child as a reminder to hone their writing skills and encourage a love for writing. We hope to see Mr. Haga again next year to celebrate his 108th birthday!

This past Thursday, we remembered Mr. Haga in a special way during our January assembly.

Mr. Haga, who had rightly earned the title of oldest living alumnus of Mid-Pacific, passed away in his sleep on November 2, 2010, just two months shy of his 109th birthday. I told the children (who still remembered him) about his visits to our January assemblies in 2007, 2008, and 2009. At one of these assemblies, we all wore birthday hats! Another year, children counted off to 107 and stood up so that everyone could better understand what the quantity 107 represented. Mr. Haga wore the same black coat, sporty cap, and gentle smile. At this recent assembly, we placed a cupcake next to his framed photo, draped with a pikake lei, and sang Happy Birthday to Mr. Haga and all the other students and faculty celebrating a January birthday. His granddaughter, Kimberly Schatz, wrote in an email, which I shared with the students at the assembly:

I am full of thanks to you, on behalf of our family, for the unique and very special memories you helped create for Grandpa in the twilight of his life, when you allowed him to be honored on some of his final birthdays at the elementary assemblies with the children.

I reminded the children about the beautiful koa-framed mirror that Mr. Haga presented as a gift for the children. It is hung in the dining room with Mr. Haga's photograph beside the mirror. The inscription on the plaque beneath the mirror reads, "The Honor of My School is Mine," which is the motto of Mid-Pacific Institute. The mirror reminds us about the importance of reflection -- how we learn, how we see ourselves as persons with strengths and areas for improvement, and how we act as members of a community. Mr. Haga left us with warm memories and an important part of himself -- his beliefs about school pride and reflection.

Happy 109th birthday, Mr. Haga!

At this special assembly, we focused on the notion of "process," which we emphasize in the classroom -- the act of creating, thinking, and solving independently and with others-- to achieve a goal. Jordan Guillory, studio art teacher for the preschool and kindergarten, explained the kindergartners' beginning design process for a collage mural, which will be displayed on one wall of the kindergarten building in April or May. The students have been learning about all the artistic elements that are considered when creating a composition. They've been experimenting with different colors and materials, creating patterns, and assessing the combination of materials, textures, and colors. Over the next few weeks, teams of kindergartners will be visiting classrooms to
gather input on the design.

We looked at "process" through the lens of writing. Since all the elementary students are quite familiar with writing as a process for thinking, re-thinking (as in revising), and drafting, they could appreciate the first drafts that fifth grade teachers Bruce Black and Cindy Hoddick read aloud to the students. As I mentioned in an earlier blog this month, the teachers are writing pieces inspired by artifacts that triggered memories of past events, places, and persons. After their reading, I quickly asked teachers to call out images, words, or phrases that left a strong impression on them. This is feedback. The faculty will be meeting in writing groups to get feedback to help with the revision of their drafts.

All in all, it was a very thought-filled gathering.

For our children,

Edna L .Hussey