Harold Kuhn: Service with a Smile
by Gwen Momita
[JAHSSD Footprints, Fall 2003, Vol. 12 No. 2]
I first met Harold Kuhn at Ocean View United Church of Christ. He was carrying one of his famous rum cakes for a potluck. Wow! This is a wonderfully moist homemade cake, generously topped with a potent rum mixture. That cake was the most popular item on the dessert table! Harold claims to have seen mothers pinch off a piece from the “middle”of the cake to give to their young children. I asked if he’d ever seen an adult scrape off just the “top” section!
Well, as I’ve come to learn, rum cake is not the only thing this energetic man is famous for. Harold is a true community servant, one who gives of his time and talents with a smile. It is therefore appropriate that we recognize Harold for his long-time dedication to our community. His Kansha Award is well-deserved!
Harold was born on January 20, 1926, in Erie, Pennsylvania. His early life on the farm was shared with six siblings, with Harold smack dab in the middle. Early on, Harold’s mother made sure her family participated in religious activities through the Pentecostal Church. Thus, Harold has always had a strong faith base, and sets a perfect example of someone “making a difference.”
In 1944, Harold was drafted into the Navy. During the Second World War, he served as a seaman on a fleet tanker. (I had to ask: a fleet tanker carries goods to other ships while at sea).
Following WWII, Harold spent several years working in restaurants and various other jobs. In 1950, during the Korean Conflict, he rejoined the Navy. Thus began his twenty-five year career in the Service as a Lithograph Specialist. He was responsible for printing ship information, details regarding port visits, as well as fleet intelligence.
In 1952, while Harold was stationed in Japan, he met and married his wife, Kuniko, of Kamakura, Japan. As Harold puts it, “The day I managed to stagger into her tea shop will remain the luckiest day for me!” Harold also began to learn the Japanese language while in Kamakura. He speaks and understands much more Japanese than most Sanseis, including myself!
For the next several decades, Harold and Kuniko were sent to various duty locations.
One location, Morocco, became their home for two years. It was during this time that they adopted their only daughter, Sandra Leah Kuhn, born in Athens, Greece. Sandra, also known as Alex, currently resides in Los Angeles.
Harold has been involved with numerous projects and community organizations. For many years, he served as a volunteer maintenance worker at Kiku Gardens. He was also on the Board of Directors and currently is Member-at-Large/Sr. Vice-President.
Harold also served on the Friendship Garden Board of Directors for approximately six years. He is now a docent and conducts tours for San Diego City School’s Balboa Park Program for Fifth Graders.
Other organizations where you will see Harold’s friendly smile include:
- Chula Vista/Odawara Sister City Society, which sponsors student and mayoral exchanges
- San Diego/Yokohama Sister Cities, which was responsible for helping obtain the Friendship Bell on Shelter Island
- Asian Pacific VFW Post, where he served as president for two years
- Japanese International Society
- JACL, where Harold and Kuniko share their talents for the annual Kid’s Culture Day
- Japanese Coordinating Council
- Ocean View United Church of Christ, where he continues to be an active friend and supporter.
Norma DeSaegher, Pastor at Ocean View, shared that she has been impressed with Harold’s dedication to the annual Bazaar. “He is always one of the first ones present for the ENTIRE week of preparations! Harold and Kuni-chan are wonderful stewards and a real blessing to us!”
Because the theme of this year’s JAHSSD Annual Meeting is “Service,” I asked Harold about his thoughts on this subject:
“Everybody should get involved!!! I’ve been involved in service all my life. It’s fulfilling for me to know I’m helping in some way. Part of our responsibility as a citizen is to be an active part of the community.”
With the 2003 Kansha Award, we say arigato to Harold for continuing to give “service with a smile.”