The family moved to Hawaii in 1956 and lived in Palolo until 1958 when they moved to Paia, Maui, where he attended Paia Elementary School. In 1956 they returned to Palolo and Wally attended Kaimuki High School. After high school he served in the Navy and went on to earn degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Kapiolani Community College.
Wally had a long and successful career in the credit union industry. He started his career in 1970 as an assistant operations manager at Hawaii National Bank's Waikiki branch and in 1972 he joined Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union, back when it was still called the Honolulu City and County Employees Federal Credit Union, as a loan officer. In 1992 he became president and CEO, a position he kept until he retired in 2013.
In his 40-year career with Aloha Pacific FCU and under his leadership they experienced record growth, opening 10 branches including one in Las Vegas. Among his achievements, Wally was one of the founders of the shared branching system and introduced its kalabash ATM network as a less costly ATM option for credit union members. He created CUSO of Hawaii services LLC to help credit unions process and service mortgage loans; and APFCU realty and financial services and created the City Credit Union Center in Kalihi, which housed a number of smaller credit unions.
Wally was only nine when he left Japan but he never forgot his roots. He was an active member of Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai and Sakura Koyu Kai, organizations whose members can trace their roots to or are friends of Fukushima prefecture and the village of Sakura, respectively. Wally served as president of HFKK (2018 and 2019) and Sakura Koyu Kai (2-18) and even led Returning Home to Our Roots tour to Fukushima for HFKK members and friends. He was president when HFKK celebrated its very successful 95th anniversary in 2018. He was also a vice president of the United Japanese Society from 2018-2019.
Wally was known to everyone as a kind-hearted and generous optimist. He couldn't say no and was always willing to help anyone he could in any way he could. One of his sayings was, "If you do the right thing you don't have to worry about money, everything will fall into place."
In 2014 Wally met Flordelina D. Felipe. Together they traveled the world and shared every moment together. Wally's family is grateful to Flor and her family for the love and kindness they extended to Wally.
Wally was preceded in death by his father Ryoichi Watanabe and his mother Tsuya (Nagase) Watanabe. He is survived by his brothers Yoshi (Myong), Paul (Joan), and David (Kaori) Watanabe, stepmother Ikuko (Aiga) Watanabe, four nieces, and two nephews.
The family plans to do a private memorial when it is safe to do so.
Arrangements Provided By: Hosoi Garden Mortuary