Maui newsman chronicled isle’s tragedies and triumphs
By Gary T. Kubota
A sports writer and news photographer whose work spanned more than four decades on Maui has died.
Mutsuo Wayne Tanaka, who began employment at The Maui News in 1948 and retired in 1992, died Saturday at his home in Kahului surrounded by family. He was 83.
Tanaka, born in Paia, grew up in a sugar plantation camp known as Nashiwa Camp, the youngest Saichi and Matsu Tanaka’s six children.
Upon graduating from old Maui High School at Hamakuapoko, Tanaka started working at The Maui News but was soon drafted to serve in the Army.
After a two years of writing military news releases during the Korean War, Tanaka returned to The Maui News as sports editor and later as chief photographer. At that time his brother Earl was also working for the newspaper and would later become its managing editor.
Tanaka’s photographs recorded the island’s news, ranging from tragedies, such as a fatal vehicle crash that killed four people at Kahului Airport in 1980, to community entertainment highs, such as the debut of Lisa Kubota in a stage production of “Scrooge” before she became a TV news reporter.
“He really had an excellent sense of photography,” said Gaylord Kubota, Lisa’s father and director emeritus of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum.
Tanaka received calls day and night, even while covering sports events where he often shot photos for his own stories.
Kenji Kawaguchi, who served as executive secretary for the Maui Interscholastic League for more than 25 years, said Tanaka had a way of gathering information given to him and turning it into a better story.
“To me he was one of the best,” Kawaguchi said.
Tanaka is survived by wife Helen and children Craig, Gail and Kevin. He had seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are set for 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at Wailuku Hongwanji. Viewing is at 3:45 p.m.