Barbara Kim-Yamashita

Posted On October 18th, 2013 -

10-18-barbara-kim-yamashitaBARBARA KIM-YAMASHITA, TELEVI DIGEST HOSTESS Barbara Kim-Yamashita, hostess of the popular musical variety show “Televi Digest” from 1956-1965, died on September 30 from lymphoma cancer. She was 83 years old. Several decades before the Asian-American faces of Connie Chung and Ann Curry were national news broadcasters, Mrs. Kim-Yamashita using the stage name Barbara Lee hosted the Sunday evening show from 1956-1965. Although her life accomplishments in later years encompassed the fields of education, government and letters, most people remember Barbara as the articulate, elegantly-dressed television hostess who was a role model for all generations. Born September 21, 1930 in Wahiawa, Hawaii the daughter of Myung Wook and Soon Up Kim, Barbara Kim graduated from Leilehua High School and the University of Hawaii with a Bachelor of Education. In 1968, she received a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration with Honors from Stanford University. While at the University of Hawaii, Barbara was a class officer, served on the Student Body Council, was a member of the Varsity Debate Team and was selected the Korean Ka Palapala Beauty Queen. Mrs. Yamashita was an English and Speech Communication teacher with the Hawaii State Department of Education. She taught at Helemano Elementary School, Farrington High School and Leilehua High School and retired as an Administrator for the Department Of Education. Needing extra income for healthcare after her mother suffered a stroke, Barbara auditioned for and won the plum position of “Televi Digest” hostess. A natural and comfortable presence in front of the television cameras, Barbara’s graceful manner and excellent speaking ability drew many fans as she introduced varied talents like Martin Denny, Ed Kenney, Sterling Mossman, Danny Kaleikini, Art Linkletter and Sophie Tucker to island audiences. In 1961, Barbara was selected by the U.S. Army Pacific Command and Korean-American leaders to be the official Goodwill Ambassador to South Korea during the military Junta under the command of General Park Chung-Hee. She was spokesperson to 36 groups throughout South Korea in an effort to rebuild and revitalize the nation after the Korean War. Ever mindful of supporting her parents’ native country, Barbara is the largest donor to date for the building of a Korean Cultural Center in Hawaii that seeks to promote the history, tradition, customs, language, arts and foods of Korea to people of all races, including Korean-born residents outside of Korea. In 1973 after her mother’s passing, Barbara married Hiroshi Yamashita, a member of the Board of Education and a personnel officer with Oahu Sugar Company. After doctors suggested that Barbara’s health would be better served by moving to a region with drier climate and lower humidity, the Yamashitas moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1992 and spent many happy years there until Hiroshi’s passing in 2004. Mrs. Kim-Yamashita authored two books, Wahiawa Korean Christian Church History: 1919-1987 (1987) and a personal family memoir, Mama And Me…Words To Uplift, (2009). A perpetual scholarship for Education majors are presented annually in honor of Barbara Kim Yamashita Scholarship through the Bank Of Hawaii. The Dressmaker’s Daughter, a documentary film on Mrs. Kim-Yamashita’s life produced by David Lim in commemoration of the 110th anniversary of the arrival of the first Koreans in Hawaii, will be shown at the Hawaii International Film Festival from October 11-15.


- Denotes U.S. Military Veteran