Museum old-timers were saddened to learn of the passing of former volunteer Amy Toda Meeker, who helped out curator of textiles Sara Oka for 15 years.
Oka reflected on her time with Meeker, “Amy Toda Meeker was a woman before her times. She loved to talk, and I loved to listen, because it meant I received a history lesson that was unwritten in textbooks. She led a fascinating and full life so her stories took me on worldwide adventures. Amy had meticulous sewing skills, a must for any volunteer here, and her impeccable taste was also greatly appreciated. Our weekly gatherings proved to be more than just work, whether it was preparing textiles to go on view, or organizing the storage system, or doing minor repairs as we exchanged insights into each of our lives.”
“She was a cool lady,” says museum registrar Pauline Sugino. She’s referring to Meeker’s adventurous life, that saw her in Japan during World War II and skiing competitively while a student at the University of Utah.
Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1924, Meeker moved to Japan at age 14 when her father decided to take his four children there following the death of his wife. Already a skier, Meeker competed on the slopes, winning seven races. She graduated in 1940 from the American School in Tokyo, and in 1941 she and her family moved to the mountain village of Karuizawa, where many foreigners sought haven from the impending war.
Following the war, Meeker attended the University of Utah where she was a member of the ski team, and also a member of the Utah State Women’s Ski Team in 1948 and 1949.
Meeker wound up in Hawai‘i when her husband Virgil, a geographer with the U.S. Army, was stationed in Hawai‘i. (He also volunteered for the museum—read the blog post about him.) She was a dedicated volunteer, offering her services to Bishop Museum, Punahou School and Kapiolani Hospital. But her “lasting achievement” as a volunteer was with the Honolulu Museum of Art, which recognized her 15 years of dedication.
Oka will miss Meeker’s cheerful and bubbly personality and her value of “mottainai,” a sense that we should never be wasteful. Oka says, “Everyone leaves his or her mark on the world, and although Amy was small in stature, her generous heart was larger than life and continues to inspire.”
The family and friends of Meeker recently established “The Amy Toda Meeker Endowment for Textiles” in her memory. If you would like to support this endowment or the museum’s Textiles Department in any amount, please note your intention on the check memo. Checks may be made out to the Honolulu Museum of Art and sent to Donor Services, 900 Beretania St., Honolulu, HI 96814.
Editor’s note: This post is adapted from the obituary that appeared in the Star Advertiser.