It is with great sorrow to share that Helene H. Otani passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 12, 2023. Helene was born on December 12, 1936 in Hamakuapoko, Maui, Hawaii to Isami and Shigeko Yamashiro. She was the youngest of four children with three older brothers. Her childhood was spent surrounded by extended family on Maui in a plantation town which was known for its closeness as a community.
Helene was married on February 12, 1966 to Kenneth Otani, and together they had two children, Yvonne and Kevin. While teaching, Helene attended school and finished her master’s degree in education. She remained a well-respected elementary school teacher for her entire 35-year career, the last 20 years of which were spent as a kindergarten teacher. Sadly, their youngest child Kevin died in an accident at age 11 years. Although this was devastating to the family, she continued to live, work, and be part of her community. She retired after a long and fruitful career, having an impact on the lives of many children over her years as a teacher. After retirement, Helene became a hula teacher at the Cerritos Senior Center, teaching modified hula. The class became so popular, it was expanded, and she also began teaching ukulele. In addition, Helene and Kenneth enjoyed many trips, including a cruise to Asia, a trip to Russia, and multiple bus excursions within the US.
Helene was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth and her son, Kevin. Helene is survived by her brother Takeshi, her daughter Yvonne (Gasem), and her two grandchildren, Marissa and Ellison Wong.
Helene will always be remembered for her humor and sarcastic wit, her amazing teaching skills, and together with her husband Kenneth, incredible generosity and thoughtfulness. Her love of Hawaii and the Aloha Spirit will always be a part of her. She will be greatly missed by all those whose lives she touched.