Sue Isonaga
A Different View

Marriage and Family

Hung Wai Ching’s matchmaking efforts bring Sue and Herbert together. They marry on March 26, 1949 at Church of the Crossroads where Sue is escorted down the aisle by Robert Shivers.

Robert Shivers dies in 1950. She remains close to his family.

The Isonagas have three children: Robert, Mae and Sara.

Meeting Herbert Isonaga

[Herbert: Well, you see all her friends, you know, guys like Hung Wai and Masa Katagiri and Ernie Murai, they all looking somebody for her, see. To fix her up. I think it’s through either Hung Wai [Ching] or something. Try to arrange for us to meet somewhere along the line.]

Hung Wai [Ching] takes credit.

We were a bunch. In fact, I was seeing another boy, another fellow. And then we’d get together and somehow, I don’t know, I guess we got together.

We saw each other. And in fact, I think at one point — I don’t know whether [Herbert] did it to get his parents’ approval or not — he took me to Kauai to meet his parents. I guess they approved because everything was okay. But we didn’t go through the custom where you have to do this but in the meantime, I heard they were checking my family. My mother was checking their family.

We found out much later, you know. But you know the old Japanese style. So, I guess everything was okay.

And we got married really fast because right in our area, Lunalilo, there was an apartment that was gonna be vacant, just about that time. I think three months.

Once Mr. Shivers must have told [Herbert], “Do you have the means to support Sue the way she’s accustomed to?” I was accustomed to poor living. (Laughs)

But then I guess his mother must have approved after he took me home and then we were going to get married. And she said she wasn’t going to come out to Honolulu for the wedding, so I told her, “Well, if you don’t come, we’re not going to have a wedding.” She said, “I don’t have a dress to wear.” So I told her, “Send me one of your old dresses and I can draft a pattern because I could and I’ll sew a clothes for you,” so I made a dress and I sent it over to her. And so she came over with that.

Wedding

[I was married in] 1949. March 26, Prince Kuhio Day. It wasn’t a holiday then but the following year, it became a holiday.

Isonaga wedding
Herbert and Sue Isonaga

[The wedding was] at Church of the Crossroads at two o’clock in the afternoon. [Mr. Shivers] gave me away.

He was telling me [jokingly as we walked down the aisle], “Sue, it’s not too late to change. Sue, it’s not too late.” I guess he thought maybe I was nervous, so he was trying to, you know.

Children

We have three [children]. The first one arrived, five or six years after we were married. And then the second one arrived sixteen months after. And the last one was a ratoon crop, I think. She arrived about five or six years after Mae.

The first one was, of course, Robert. And the second one is Mae. You see, we were supposed to name our first girl, Corinne, after Mrs. Shivers. But you know, nothing was happening to us. In the meantime, my brother was having bang, bang, bang, bang, four girls. So he said, “Sue, would you mind if we named one of the girls, Corinne?”

I said, “No, because there may never be a Corinne in the family.” Well, then Mae came along, so we couldn’t have two Corinnes in the family, so we named her after Mom Shivers’ sister. And then, when Sara came along, I always — I don’t know why — admired Franklin Roosevelt and his mother’s name was “Sara.” So I liked the name “Sara,” so I named her Sara. And then the nurse that came and took care of Mrs. Shivers, her name was Sarah. I figured Isonaga is so long, so I give them short names. Short and easy names.

[Robert is named] after Mr. Shivers. [Herbert] was going to add “Hung Wai” after that. Robert Hung Wai Isonaga. (laughs) But he never did but he was thinking of Robert Hung Wai Isonaga.

Robert Shivers

When we spent our first wedding anniversary [1950], [Herbert and I] were Hauoli Street. And I remember, they [Shivers] came with honohono [dendrobium anosmum] orchids spray to wish us happy anniversary.

SI with the Shivers
Sue Isonaga and the Shivers

At that time, they were up on Tantalus and then he had a bad attack. I think Mr. Thacker called and told me that he was in Queen’s Hospital. So, I went down to Queen’s Hospital. Mrs. Thacker and Mom Shivers were there and I came by. Mr. Thacker was there, too.

So, you see, I think because of the war, all the time and pressure and everything, he had high blood pressure and then he developed heart problems. So he was still working then, going to work.

But then, I think [during the later years of World War II] he was reassigned to Mainland, to take him away from here because he couldn’t do any more. He was sick, so they sent him to Florida, I think. But he was very unhappy there. So, he wanted to come back [closer to Hawaii. He was in Los Angeles for a while.]

He [contacted] Hung Wai Ching [to ask] if he can do anything to get him back to the Islands. And at that time, the collector of customs’ job was available. So, Hung Wai, I think, went to see Mrs. Roosevelt and got him [Shivers] appointed to become collector of customs [for Hawaii and the Pacific].

Sue Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Herbert and Sue Isonaga.

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