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On this Mother’s Day …

Maui County’s first lady Joycelyn Victorino offers: ‘Love your children and believe in them’

Joycelyn Victorino shares a happy moment with sons Michael Jr. (right) and Shane on election night last November at husband Michael’s campaign headquarters in Kahului. Michael Victorino won the election of mayor that night, making her the first lady of Maui County. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui County’s first lady took motherhood very seriously, forgoing a college education to raise her children, working multiple jobs to pay for their school tuition and just doing “what you have to do” for “the love and betterment” of her children.

Joycelyn Victorino “became a mother in high school” in her senior year, giving birth to Michael Jr. on May 13, 1976, and then a month later graduated with her class at St. Anthony in Wailuku, she told The Maui News in interviews last week.

She and current Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino were married prior to the birth of their child on Feb. 14, 1976.

“It was very tough,” said Victorino of her life as an 18-year-old mother back then.

The popular high school student, prom queen, class president, cheerleader and member of the National Honor Society had her life change.

Joycelyn Victorino

“I had a very loving family,” she said. “Mike was very mature and responsible. Mike was letting me go to school so I could get a degree. But I opted to stay home, and raised a family, because I felt that was my responsibility at the time.”

With graduation parties going on and friends wanting Victorino’s company, the young mother said she didn’t go out unless it was with her husband and Mike Jr.

“Otherwise, I didn’t go, I told them ‘no,’ I accepted the responsibility, that’s the reason I chose not to go out,” she remembers.

Looking back 43 years later, Victorino, 61, said: “All these challenges, my dad always taught me, they are just obstacles in your life.”

” ‘It’s what you do,’ “ she remembers her late father, Chester Nakahashi Sr., telling her.

Today, she has two adult sons, Mike Jr., 42, a stevedore, and Shane, 38, a retired professional baseball player, who have families of their own.

She also has five grandchildren, ages 8 to 25.

Victorino said she has “no regrets” over her decision to take responsibility for her family and situation four decades ago.

“I’m glad that I made that decision, because not only that, I just feel that this is a good example for other people to see that it can be done, through trials, tribulations, hardships, it can be done,” she said.

Life and work

Forgoing a college education was just one thing Victorino sacrificed. At times, she worked multiple jobs to pay for her boys’ education at her alma mater, as well as keep up with the bills.

The current mayor also took multiple jobs, selling insurance and working in security at Maui resorts.

“It was to make ends meet. We were just middle-income earners,” Victorino said. “What we didn’t do is ask the parents for a dime. Either we went without it, or somehow . . . we had to buy it for ourselves.”

Since Mike Jr. was several months old, Victorino has held one or more jobs. This included working in accounting at Zales, in customer service for Mid Pacific Air and Discovery Airways, and in public relations for McDonald’s.

Victorino even cleaned International Longshore and Warehouse Union offices late at night, after her sons’ activities, sometimes with her two boys helping with the cleaning. She has been employed by the ILWU since 1988 and plans to retire next March.

She could not have made it through without family help. Relatives watched the boys when the young couple worked. The children were never neglected because they stayed with those who loved them.

“You may not have the quantity of our time, but you will have the quality of time with us,” Victorino remembers telling her children.

Parenting

Looking back, Victorino is most happy that her sons have grown up giving back to the community.

While the spotlight has been on her baseball-playing son, Shane, Victorino is proud of Mike Jr., who she said is very caring. He still calls her and the mayor over for dinner at his Wailuku home nearby.

Raising two boys, especially the active Shane, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder in preschool, was not easy. Shane had to get stitches multiple times — after getting cut by a vase, hitting his head on an ashtray in a car, jumping off a bunk bed and hitting his head on a toy truck and injuring his ear on a bicycle part, Victorino recalls.

“It was very difficult because he was so active and could not keep still. Before the age of 10, he had gone to the doctors for stitches at least six times and had at least 25 stitches,” Victorino said.

The Victorinos got help from doctors, teachers, coaches, teammates and especially their own family.

It was difficult juggling doctor appointments and other activities because the couple was involved with many school and community organizations, as well as work. “One day at a time” is how she handled it.

“You know hopefully this will help the child down the road,” she said. “Look at how he ended up.”

Values and money

“The best things in life are free,” Victorino remembers telling her sons.

“What does that mean? We don’t have to go shopping and buy nice clothes or nice shoes, drive nice cars. The most important thing is we are together, at the beach or at the park,” she emphasized.

She fondly recalls the family outings at Wells Park when the boys were in their teenage years. One son would be hitting, their dad pitching and their mom in the outfield “ushing” or gathering the balls.

It was those times as a family that Victorino cherishes. She said if the family went to a restaurant, there were other people around and other distractions.

“You don’t get the special time alone,” she said.

The family didn’t place too much value on obtaining material things but obtained them if they needed. Victorino recalls going to a sporting goods store with Shane, who was probably in high school. He picked up a $39.95 batting glove.

“He asks me, ‘Mom, can you buy me this glove?’ ” Victorino recalls. “I kind of choke up. ‘Shane, is this something you need or is this something you want?’ ”

” ‘Mom, this is something I need,’ “ Shane replied.

“I took that he needed it, and I bought it. I charged it to my credit card,” she remembers. Then she paid the glove off in installments.

“I could not pay it in full,” she said.

“The funny thing is, after (Shane) got into the minor leagues, they (companies) were sending him cases of them,” she said.

And those gloves were priced at $59 to $99. Shane gave them away because he had too many, she said.

Inspiration

Victorino said she looked toward her mother, Olive Nakahashi, who died in 2001, as her role model.

“I never saw a harder working lady than my mom,” she said. “She was such a loving, caring and hardworking mother. All of her children will say that about her. . . . If I were half (of) what my mom (was) I would be happy.”

Nakahashi worked at the cannery as a trimmer and came home with burns from the acid in pineapple on her arm. Her mother would go to bed in the wee hours of the morning and wake up at 5 a.m. for work.

“Mind you, four of us were going to St. Anthony,” Victorino recalled. “We would go to school with clean pressed clothes.”

During those days, the pressing was done with starch and an iron.

“The house was always clean. We always were fed,” she said. “My mom was a super woman.”

Victorino said her father also sacrificed and worked overseas to support the family.

When Nakahashi was at Hale Makua in her later years, Victorino would visit her. Even if Victorino was having a bad day, seeing her mom would clear up the gloom.

Her mom used to say:

” ‘You look so beautiful’ “ and compliment her daughter in various ways.

“It would just make me smile, all my work and all my problems would wash away,” Victorino said. “You knew she loved you so much.”

When asked what advice she could give Maui County mothers on this Mother’s Day, the first lady of Maui County said she wasn’t sure if she was qualified to do so.

She then said: “Love your children and believe in them. They have so much to offer.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.