The north wind blows through trees, scattering leaves and raising dust.
The pine exists in solitude, its dark green color appearing fresh.
Soaring like a mountain by a deep river valley,
It is in winter that we see its spirit emerge….
—Artist Suzuki Shōnen, inscription for Old Pine painting, Japan, 1900
It is with profound sadness that we share news of the loss of cherished museum volunteer and member Dr. Valdo H. Viglielmo, who passed away on Nov. 14 at the age of 89.
A distinguished scholar and translator, Dr. Viglielmo developed a love for Japanese culture while serving as an interpreter in postwar Tokyo. In 1946, he entered Harvard University, and went on to continue his studies in Japan while completing his dissertation on Natsume Sōseki, one of Japan’s most celebrated authors. He translated Meian (Light and Darkness), Sōseki’s final work, into English in 1971. After teaching at Harvard and Princeton, Dr. Viglielmo moved to Honolulu to teach Japanese literature at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where he would continue to impassion, enrich, and shape student lives for 37 years.
Dr. Viglielmo was also a human-rights advocate, philosopher, and peace activist who (along with his beloved wife, Frances) was awarded a Peace Prize in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1998. He counted amongst his many friends the authors Kenzaburo Oe and Mishima Yukio, as well as Dr. Edward Seidensticker, the eminent scholar best known for his elegant translation of the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji.
In 2003, Dr. Viglielmo became a volunteer in the museum’s Asian Art Department. During his ten years of service, he spent hundreds of hours assisting with translations from Japanese to English, proofing text, and offering editorial advice for publications such as Masterpieces of Chinese Lacquer from the Mike Healy Collection, Literati Modern, and Masterpieces of Landscape Painting from the Forbidden City. He volunteered faithfully on a weekly basis, enjoying a standing lunch reservation in the Museum Café.
As a lifelong educator and champion for cultural diversity and justice, Dr. Viglielmo identified strongly with founder Anna Rice Cooke’s philosophy behind establishing the Honolulu Museum of Art for the children of Hawai‘i. He often noted that the museum was an “oasis of tranquility and culture amongst the bustle of modern life,” and that he found tremendous pleasure in helping the museum present information on its collections, particularly the Japanese prints and paintings, to the public.
He shall be greatly missed.
Suzuki Shōnen (1848–1918)
Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912) c.1900
Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color & gold on paper
Gift of Terry Welch, in honor of Stephen Little, 2005
Val was a real scholar and someone with a burning conscience for world peace. He never minced his words in an era that seems to value being “appropriate” more than it does looking straight into the face of reality, be it good or bad. But Val was never afraid. As a true friend of the arts of Japan, his contribution was both on campus and off. He will be missed.
Stephen: Beautifully put! That sounds just like Val sensei. :-)Thanks very much. We shall miss him sorely, indeed.
My aloha and appreciation to Val and his family. I have been honored to walk with them over many decades for justice, peace and the earth. May he rest in peace, and may we all carry on his work for the good of all.
The museum, Hawaii and the world have lost a magnificent person. His good works will live on. We wish his family all the best during this period of mourning and beyond.
Jim & Sean, thank you for your kind words.
There will be a memorial service for Val on Thursday, December 1, at 5:30 p.m. at the Church of the Crossroads, 1212 University Ave.
I met Valdo and Francis in the late 70’s when I was at the University of Hawaii in Manoa working as an instructor with the Department of Education. After going overseas, I returned to Oahu and we resumed our friendship. I was an activist too at that time.
It was at the end of Valdo’s career, when he was working at the Museum as a volunteer that we began to meet and have lunch at the Museum Cafe. What great times we had discussing politics. They were great friends and, though I don’t live in Hawaii any more, I still miss them very much!