Kupuna Life: How the Ariyoshis fell in love and stayed together nearly 7 decades later

Kupuna Life

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii’s longest-serving governor and former first lady are still going strong, as they weather this pandemic together. They share a love story that spans nearly seven decades. Many of those years were spent at Washington Place.

KHON2’s Kristine Uyeno found out how the Ariyoshis met and the secret to their long marriage.

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Picture this: The year was 1952. Jean Hayashi was a sophomore at the University of Hawaii and was invited to a party, the same one that 26-year-old George Ariyoshi was at.

“George happened to ask me for a dance, and I loved to dance, I love to jitterbug,” Jean recalled, “and we were jitterbugging, and I was so shocked. He was such a good jitterbugger.”

She felt instant chemistry.

“He was very tall, very handsome, I thought,” said Jean, “and he had these eyebrows that go up and down when he spoke — that was kind of sexy.”

George laughed as he described her as “nice looking” as well, but there was only one problem.

“I happened to be there with somebody else,” he said.

“You see, when we were dancing and dancing, I had realized that he was there with a date, so I said, ‘I think it’s time for me to go home,'” Jean explained.

George called her soon after, and the two have been together ever since. They married in 1955 when she was a college senior and he was running in his first of numerous political races that go in this order: House, Senate, Lieutenant Governor, and finally, Governor.

“When you’re in the public eye, it’s really hard on the family, especially on the kids, so it’s important for me as mother and wife to hold the family together and help the kids along and make it a home for George to come back to,” Jean said.

The former governor is now 95 years old, and the former first lady is about to turn 88.

“Love is the main thing in the marriage to continue love, and he showed it in many ways,” she said, “especially when at night — two, three [o’clock] in the morning — I wake up in pain, and so he massages me and no matter, half an hour, one hour sometimes.”

“And Jean does a good job of keeping me healthy, and she wants to be sure I’m fed,” George added. “She makes my breakfast, makes my lunch.”

Taking care of each other and being accommodating are keys to this successful marriage.

“So I think it’s understanding the other person and not expecting the unexpected or the unreasonable from the other person and knowing that by working together, doing things together, we can achieve more,” said George.

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And if you’re wondering it the chemistry is still there… Jean still loves his eyebrows, although they look different today compared to nearly 70 years ago.

“Well, his eyebrows are still there, but they’re white and not black.”

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