Born December 23, 1928 in Bellingham, Washington, Georgia Ellen Ward was deaf from birth. Her deafness was a result of German Measles early in her mother’s pregnancy. Georgia attended The Oregon School for the Deaf from 1933 to 1945 and then attended Gallaudet University for one year. In 1947 she moved to Hawaii, married, and attended the Hauola Business College and received a clerk typist diploma in 1950. Her first employer in Honolulu was with the accounting firm of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., for whom she worked for 28 years. During those years, Georgia raised three children and became more and more involved with community service. Georgia took an early retirement to devote her efforts full-time to her life’s passion of advocacy for Hawaii’s deaf community.
During the fifty-four years that Georgia lived in Hawaii her tireless leadership and extensive voluntary service included founding the Hawaii Club for the Deaf in 1950, the Hawaii Silent Bowling Club in 1961, managing the men’s volleyball team from Hawaii that represented the United States at the 1968 World Games for the Deaf in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. She worked for three years as a Communication Specialist for the Hawaii Services on Deafness. In 1980, Georgia became the Volunteer Executive Director of the Aloha State Association of the Deaf. She served on multiple advisory committees, including for the Americans With Disabilities Act, and held numerous elected positions in offices related to deaf activities and services. She was a teacher and a spokesperson as well; teaching sign language and advocating for the rights of deaf people in recreation, employment and driver training. She fought relentlessly to spread awareness and education about the deaf through the hearing community to further better communications, services and treatment of deaf citizens.
Georgia’s leadership and unselfish voluntary service did not go unnoticed locally and on the mainland. Her honors and accolades are numerous. Some of them include: In 1977, she received the First Annual First Lady’s Outstanding Adult Volunteer Award. That same year, Georgia was one of nine recipients of the National Volunteer Activist Award, presented in Washington, D.C., by President Jimmy Carter. At the National Association of the Deaf convention in 1984, she was presented the Robert Greenmun Award for Services to Deaf Citizens on the Local Level. In 1994, The Honolulu Advertiser selected Georgia as one of its unsung heroes for the Thomas Jefferson Award program, sponsored in cooperation with the American Institute for Public Service in Washington, D.C. In 1996, Gallaudet University Alumni Association awarded her the Pauline “Polly” Peikoff “Service to Others” award in appreciation for her dedication to her local community and for the inspiring example she set.
In her personal life, Georgia enjoyed watching volleyball, making crafts, tending her garden, attending live performing arts programs, and learning about other cultures. She loved the “feel” of music and always drove with the radio volume turned up so the beat of musical vibration enveloped the inside of her car!
Georgia was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer in late 2000 and passed away on May 5, 2001 surrounded by her husband, children and grandchildren. She is interred at Diamond Head Memorial Park, across from Kapiolani Community College where she taught sign language for many years.
GEORGIA E. MORIKAWA
(1928 - 2001)
Endeared "Mom" to the deaf and hard of hearing community of Hawaii
My late Grandmother, Georgia Morikawa was born deaf and believed it a gift and lived her life proving that it was. She worked tirelessly to improve the quality of services for the deaf community in Hawaii. Humble about all the accolades received, including National Volunteer of the Year presented by President Jimmy Carter, she hid the plaques, plates, trophies and certificates. I keep her photograph in my dressing area as a daily reminder that my faults are possibly my greatest attributes!
-Natalie Reubens, Granddaughter
Patricia "Patty" Sakal
Patty’s involvement with GEM is a personal one. Georgia E. Morikawa was her mother. Her life, her passion, her work, her legacy, her dream, and everything she represented embodies GEM. Within the last year, Patty had a compelling call to serve the community in a greater capacity, wanting to go beyond her work as an interpreter. She believed the timing is right in bringing the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind communities together in unity and momentum. The goal is to collaborate with organizations which represent and serve these populations to develop resources and services our communities so desperately need, and to empower, educate, and advocate for our communities to live productive and fulfilled lives.