James graduated from Farrington High School in 1958 and then served in the Hawaii Air National Guard for 10 years. He earned a B.A. in Social Studies in 1974 from the University of Hawaii Manoa.
James married his true love, Mary Elizabeth Williams in 1966 and celebrated 55 years of marriage on July 2, 2021.
James worked as a Jail Guard at HPD's Halawa Jail, before serving as a Police Officer with the Honolulu Police Department, where he retired after 25 years of service as a Police Detective at the Pearl City Police Station. After retirement James worked at Nanakuli and Waipahu High School as a Truancy Officer, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport as an LEO Supervisor, and Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort as a Security Officer.
James served the Lord as a member of Kalihi Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Pearl City.
James loved coaching youth football as Head Coach for the Leeward Chargers, Pearl City Chargers, and Pearl City High School J.V. Football team.
James is predeceased by parents, James Kawai, Jr., and Grace Tong Kawai; sisters Maydelle, Charming and Blossom; brothers Lemuel Sr., Beldon, Jonathan, and Leighton. James is survived by wife, Mary; daughters, Kehau Pong and husband Jeffrey, Malia Kaliloa and husband Joey; sons, James Kawai IV and wife Melanie, and Gavin Kawai; eleven grandchildren, Joshua, Kristen Curran and husband Joshua, Micah, Kaylen, Jasen, Kelsey, Ilihia, James V, Kia'i, Kahulu, and Makia; and six great grandchildren Jayci-Lyn, Joseph-James, Jahreah, Jahzel, Cali, and Jaxon; one brother Vaughn and wife Julie of Honolulu; and many other relatives.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Arrangements Provided By: Oahu Mortuary