April 12, 2016

Community Spotlight: Wilfred Aoki

Photo of Lanai crossing guard Wilfred Aoki wearing yellow vest and standing outside.

For 74-year-old Wilfred Aoki, serving as Lanai High and Elementary School’s only street crossing guard helps keep the pep in his step. The Lanai native returned to the Pineapple Isle after retiring from a long career as a car salesman on Oahu and Maui.

“I was retired, and had nothing to do. Sergeant Massey asked if I would be the school’s crossing guard,” says Aoki. “I’ve been doing this for about five years now.”

Twice a day, Monday through Friday, Aoki reports for duty at the crosswalk fronting LHES to help Lanai’s school children cross the street safely before classes begin and when they finish for the day.

Despite his infectious laughter and playful “hellos” to crossing keiki, Aoki takes his role very seriously, and diligently stands guard each school day.

“To be perfectly honest, it is a very dangerous job,” says Aoki. “People don’t pay attention to the children walking on the street, they may be on the phone or talking to someone else in the car.”

By carrying a sign and wearing a bright neon vest, Aoki captures the attention of drivers and parents, who are grateful for the cheery guardian.

“I spend about an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon at the cross walk,” says Aoki. “In between, I go shopping, have my homemade lunch, or go and talk story with one of my friends.”

Aoki has slowed down a bit due to a bad back, but he still enjoys watching sports at home where he lives with his younger brother and sister-in-law. When asked who his favorite team is, Aoki laughs. “I don’t care, I watch everything and I always cheer for the winning team!”

In his early days, Aoki was an avid athlete, and could often be found fishing from the shoreline, deep sea fishing, or free diving. He frequented the old bowling alley, and loved to golf whenever he had time.

At home, Aoki refuses to cook, “why cook, when I can criticize?” he quips, before complimenting his brother and his wife on their new recipes, as well as their classic go-to meals.

“Life at home is good, and I’m glad I retired on Lanai,” says Aoki. “But one reason why I decided to work as the street crossing guard is so I don’t forget what day it is!”

Aoki hopes to keep serving as a guard, “until I cannot,” and he’s proud to share that there’s never been an accident or close call while he was on watch.

“I do this for the children — they are fun and so enjoyable,” says Aoki. “Whenever they see me in town, they are always waving at me, but I have no idea who I am waving back to!” smiles Aoki. “It’s all good though, another perk of the job.”

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