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The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Incidental Lives column
[November 09, 2012]

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Incidental Lives column

Nov 09, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Any yahoo with a high-speed Internet connection and an H-logo Under Armour shirt can toss off a couple of pocket-worn pennies about the state of the University of Hawaii athletic department or the ups and downs of Norm Chow's first year as Warrior football coach.

But it takes a fan of truer stripe to understand, and care deeply about, the psychological fortitude of Wahine pitcher Kaia Parnaby heading into her senior season, or the ability of the hoops team's new starting backcourt to get the ball to their bigs in the halfcourt, or soccer coach Michele Nagamine's ability to recruit and develop local talent.

In other words, don't get super-fan Mel Murakami started unless you're prepared to enter the deep waters of Warrior and Wahine arcana.

The 61-year-old retired banker and his equally UH-enamored wife, Gwene, track UH sports with the tenacity of a Vegas sportsbook. They read the articles, call in to the radio shows, lurk on the blogs. They watch every event they can.

"Sports bring out a lot of intangibles, a lot of life lessons," Murakami says. "You have your ups and downs, your challenges and successes." Murakami says being a sports fan isn't always easy. It takes faith, loyalty and consistency. He knows a little bit about such things.

Murakami came to love sports through his participation in intermediate and high school band.

"I went to all the pep rallies, and I felt the excitement," he says. "I saw how sports can rally not just a school, but the community and the state." An avid science-fiction reader and standout chess player, Murakami didn't play sports himself. He instead followed the old "Grease" aphorism: "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter." Murakami would later meet his match when he and Gwene became acquainted at a Jaycee mixer. For years the couple sat shoulder to shoulder watching UH football, volleyball, basketball and other sports.

About 12 years ago a freak accident left Gwene paralyzed below the chest. Murakami quit his job as an assistant vice president at City Bank and devoted himself to providing her round-the-clock care.

With the help of the St. Francis Home Health program, Murakami has proved to be an All-American-level care provider. Gwene has never suffered a bedsore under his watch, an almost unheard-of accomplishment.

"It takes a lot out of you," Murakami admits. "You have to be dedicated or, in my case, stubborn. I couldn't do it for anybody except my wife." A couple of weeks ago, the Murakamis received a trove of UH-themed treasures -- including shirts, photos, sports balls and other items signed by UH coaches and athletes -- from Healthcare Association of Hawaii vice president and CEO Rachael Wong and the UH athletic department.

The gift was offered not just in recognition of the couple's love of UH sports, but for what lies behind the big "H" on Murakami's shirt.

Big heart. Huge.

Reach Michael Tsai at

___ (c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Visit The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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