During the days preceding his passing, no ailment seemed to plague Mr. Maurice Fujie. On Saturday, he attended the University of Hawaii vs Fresno State football game. On Sunday, he worked at his wife’s East Honolulu Clothing Company shop in Kaneohe. On Monday, he attended the University of Hawaii vs. Troy University basketball game, and on Tuesday, he substituted at Kaiser. However, on Tuesday night, he began to feel ill, and his temperature skyrocketed to 105°F. After arriving at the emergency room, the medical staff confirmed he had pneumonia and consequently admitted him into the Intensive Care Unit where he was given antibiotics. Such efforts were futile as bacteria had already entered his bloodstream, eliciting an immune response that would end up damaging Fujie’s tissues and organs, a condition known as sepsis. He was put into a state of induced coma using a controlled dose of medications. Despite the efforts of the doctor, Fujie passed away on Nov. 17 at the age of 69.
Fujie’s teaching career began in 1970 after he graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a teaching certificate and a bachelor’s in photography and fine art. He first began working at Kalakaua Intermediate School. Five years later, he transferred to Kaiser as an art teacher and taught fine art and photography for the next 32 years until he retired in 2007. During his ten years of retirement, he continued to serve the students of Kaiser.
With the passing of the late Fujie, many reminisce and reflect on their experiences with him. Most may vaguely remember his role as a substitute teacher, but few remember him as well as his niece, Ms. Janelle Ling. “He was always on the straight-and-narrow. When I had him as a photography teacher, he wouldn’t even bend the rules for me. He gave me a “B”, and [since] I was his niece, I thought for sure I’d get a free “A”. He was one of the most morally and ethically correct people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Ling. She also recalled how protective and caring he was and how praise never motivated him to commit to being morally virtuous. “I started teaching when he was still teaching at Kaiser. He would always check up on me, trying to be discreet about it, but he watched my every move. He was always behind-the-scenes, never needing the spotlight.”
Fujie was infamous for the high standards he had of students and his coworkers. “Fujie wasn’t the most popular person. He was a real stickler for rules. He was big on having your ID, dress code, he was always kinds of picking on the small things. He would scold the faculty sometimes,” Fujie’s long-time friend counselor Jimmy Hutcherson said. “He thought teachers ought to dress up as professional educators with ties, pants, slacks. We ought to look professional which I don’t. So he scolded me about the way I dressed at school.”
Despite their differences, the two eventually bonded over their common interests. “We were both republicans and we’re both kind of conservative. We work at the DOE so all these teachers are liberal. I would walk by his room and he would be watching Fox News and then I would go “oh cool, Fox News” so we got to talking about that and that’s how we got a camaraderie,” Hutcherson said.
The two stayed friends until Fujie’s death. “Once you knew him, he did anything to help you,” Hutcherson said. “He wasn’t too bad, now that I think about it. He helped many kids graduate or pass his class, even when they shouldn’t have.”
At the age of 50, Fujie was still playing his favorite pastime, softball. “One time, I wanted to step into one of his games and he told me that he played to win and that he wasn’t there to have fun,” Hutcherson said. “He was a very serious and competitive person. Even when he played board games, he wanted to win.” But, Hutcherson said, “that’s just how he was. If he was gonna do something, he was gonna be the best. He had that drive to be the best.”
Leadership teacher Rinda Fernandez also had memories of Fujie to share: “He knew how to have fun. During one of the homecoming assemblies many years ago, the teachers and students were performing the limbo. Maurice got out on the floor, took his shirt off and along with other contestants attempted to go under the bar,” said Fernandez. “The students went wild.”
Although he was strict, many teachers acknowledged that Fujie was well-meaning. “He just wanted what was best for the school… he was not afraid to fight for what he believed in. He wanted the school to prosper, to be the best it could be, in all areas, whether it was academics, athletics, extracurriculars. He wasn’t a person who said things, he actually went out and helped do them,” Ling said. This outlook on life defined his 69 years of life and made him out to be a person with impeccable character and an unmatched enthusiasm for teaching. “I miss him,” Hutcherson said.