Genny worked with the state Department of Health since 1999 and served under four governors. She was first appointed as the Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control by Gov. Ben Cayetano, and most recently, she served as the Environmental Ombudsman assisting small businesses with compliance to environmental laws and regulations and assisting the public with environmental concerns. She enjoyed working with legislators and making connections between the many friends she gathered over the years, and served on many state committees, task forces, and commissions related to environmental issues. She was proud of her work to help pass the "Bottle Bill," the beverage container deposit program that sought to decrease the amount of recyclable materials in landfills.
Before working for the government, Genny's professional career began in the private sector. In 1969 she was hired as a secretary at United Tire & Recapping Co. Ltd., and left 22 years later as Corporate Vice President. Then as General Manager & Senior Vice President of Honolulu Recovery Systems Inc., she gained experience in refuse management and recycling, and became interested in reducing solid waste and protecting the natural environment.
Born in Honolulu, Genny was the third daughter and youngest child of the late Harry Kan Yat Lee and the late Janet Hatsue Gushikuma, both of whom were also Hawaii-born. Her father was a civilian employee for the US Military, first at Pearl Harbor before World War II, then Hickam Airfield and Schofield Barracks before his retirement. Her mother was a salesperson for many decades at Kramer's Men's Store on Fort Street Mall and then at the newly built Ala Moana Center.
Raised in Kalihi, Genny graduated in from W.R. Farrington High School in 1964 and attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa (B.A.). She was a lifelong UH basketball and football fan, enjoyed traveling and cooking for friends. At one time, she was even an ultra marathon runner. She loved Na Wai 'Eha O Puna halau and later Ke Kai O Kahiki. And she had a brief stint running Boomer's club in the '90s with Isaac Hokama and was proud to feature Hawaiian musicians there.
Genny was a longtime member of Osato Doshi Kai, one of regional clubs of the Hawaii United Okinawan Association. She served as treasurer for many years and was a coordinator of the Shinen Enkai (New Year's Celebration). She helped to organize the community volunteers for the Osato booth that sold andagi at the annual Okinawan Festival.
She is survived by her son Michael Yamashita and his husband Colm Hegarty of San Francisco; older sisters Doris Ohara and Judy & Lambert Fu; nephew Lance & Eileen Ohara (Castro Valley, CA); nieces Kellie & Bill Takashima, Terri & Douglas (Andy) Anderson, Heather & Christian Oshiro, Jeanette & Eric White, Marlene & Toby Ohira-Tayama; and many great nieces and nephews. Marriages to Thomas Yamashita and John Salmonson ended in divorce many years ago.
Genny was devoted to her dogs Mori and Shiro. In lieu of gifts or flowers, donations in her memory can be made to the Hawaiian Humane Society or environmental organizations 'Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi, the Hawaii Conservation Alliance, or Nature Conservancy Hawaii.
A Memorial Service will be scheduled later in the year
when circumstances allow for larger gatherings.
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