The museum suffered a great loss on March 5 with the passing of trustee Alan Tomonari. Known as Al, he was instrumental in opening Neiman Marcus in Hawai‘i in 1998 and served as its vice president and general manager until he retired in 2015. With a storied career in retail fashion, it is no surprise that he brought panache and business savvy to the museum’s board. Museum staff extends its deepest sympathy to his wife Joyce and her family.
Al joined the board of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, in 2001, and remained on the joint board when the museum merged with the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 2011. He was a valued member of the Buildings and Grounds, Finance, and Investment committees.
“He was a wonderful person and an outstanding trustee,” says fellow trustee Lynne Johnson. “He, with Neiman Marcus, partnered with the museum in so many generous ways. He will be sorely missed.”
HoMA deputy director Allison Wong, who was previously director of The Contemporary Museum, has long worked with Al. “When he came back to Hawai‘i to head up Neiman Marcus’ flagship store in Ala Moana, he brought style to a whole new level,” she says. “TCM was even one of the beneficiaries when the store opened. For more than a decade Neiman Marcus hosted TCM’s annual fundraiser Contempo because Al understood the importance of the arts in our community. He would make sure that all of his sales staff would be trained in answering questions about the art on view.”
Al was also an art connoisseur, creating a collection for Neiman Marcus that includes works by Satoru Abe and Tadashi Sato, as well as a personal collection.
“While he served on three committees, I had the most enjoyment in working with him on Buildings and Grounds,” says Wong. “His astute and keen eye helped me with café upgrades and he gave sage advice on the market and customer base for the Museum Shop. With his knowledge of plants, high aesthetics and eye for detail, he also played an important role in our recent beautification project of our museum courtyards. He was a wonderful mentor and would always take my calls to knock ideas around and brainstorm on how to best approach our audiences or enter a new sector. His contributions to our ‘ohana will be greatly missed.”
Deputy director Theresa Papanikolas notes that “Al’s strength, calm compassion, and clarity of purpose are exactly what museums seek in their trustees. He was such a warm and friendly presence on our board. When he spoke, people sat up and listened, and when he sat silently, you know he was paying close attention.”
Born and raised in Honolulu, Al attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Hawai‘i, earning an MBA. He began his retail career at Liberty House then moved to California where he worked for Macy’s as a buyer and rose to vice president of men’s merchandising for Macy’s East Division in New York.
Like many of the museum’s trustees, Al had a strong sense of community and was involved in many nonprofit organizations in addition to HoMA. His past board involvement includes the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, Retail Merchants of Hawaii, the Air Force Civilian Advisory Council, Aloha United Way, American Red Cross, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and the YMCA.
Al and his wife Joyce, who leads the museum’s floral team, were a perennial elegant presence at the museum’s Kama‘aina Christmas gala. And that is how we will remember him.