By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
He used to show up every so often at the Rafu Shimpo office, wearing his “Sexy Senior” ball cap and proudly showing off photos of his latest dancing dates.
He would describe (as he’d done on each previous visit) the extensive history of his bowling league and/or fishing club, how many of the original members were still active and produce score sheets from decades ago to verify their participation.
If for some reason, we hadn’t published the latest league scores, I would draw his ire something fierce.
He would laugh at his own off-color jokes and eventually leave with the same boyish grin he was wearing on the way in. Above all, he’d display the unabashed enthusiasm he had for his life.
Local sports lost an unwaveringly faithful force on July 31, when Yukio Hino died at the age of 87. Having suffered poor health and some fairly serious injuries last year, Hino had moved from his Pasadena home to an assisted living facility in Alhambra. It was a fall at the senior care center on July 24 that resulted in a head injury from which he did not recover.
“We lost an extraordinary person in Yuk Hino,” Robert Kikkawa told the Rafu. Kikkawa is the sole remaining charter member of what is now known as the Yuk Hino Pasadena Bowling League, renamed in 2004 after its longtime member, treasurer and secretary.
Born in Phoenix and raised in the Van Nuys area, Hino joined the league, then known as the Pasadena Nisei Mixed, in 1958. He immediately displayed a keen aptitude for not only keeping scores, but digesting and logging them in a concise, easily read format, to keep all bowlers apprised of their progress.
With his trusty typewriter and a mind for statistics, Hino chronicled the league scores for more than 50 years, effortlessly plucking tidbits of information from his memory – members’ high scores, changes in handicap, how many 300 games they’ve rolled. He bought a photocopier for his home in order to distribute updates to members each week, and was able to transition to computer-based word processing and email.
Whatever he couldn’t commit to memory, he had carefully cataloged in his small home, in notebooks, binders and file cabinets.
“He’s one of the most organized people I’ve ever seen,” league member Matthew Kono said in a 2008 Rafu interview. “He has league sheets from the 1950s on paper that’s still really white. It’s amazing.”
What has long set Hino’s group apart from other long-established leagues is the range of ages of its members. Bowlers from their early 20s into their 80s mix and mingle seamlessly in competition, a feat that often seems impossible when members’ varying levels of interest and ability, as well as outside commitments, are taken into account. Keeping several generations together to enjoy one another on a weekly basis is a testament to motivation as well as organization.
“It’s all because of Yuk,” said Kimi Kuwae, the league’s current president. “His dedication and loyalty to the league is what keeps it all going.”
Hino was not simply a pencil-pusher, though. The man bowled, and while his average suffered a bit as the years caught up with him, he was out there getting it done, three days a week.
“I used to average in around 150 when I was in my 70s, but now I’m over the hill,” he said, always quick with a one-liner.
It wasn’t only bowling that filled his days. After retiring from his work as an aircraft machinist in Burbank, Hino sought to do all the things that had brought him joy. He was a stalwart member of the Creelbusters fishing club, a group that began in 1949 and conducts yearly derbies at Crowley Lake.
Hino also took up dancing – mostly ballroom – that kept him in good standing socially, as did regular trips to Las Vegas.
“I still go to the ballroom dance class on Monday night for exercise,” he wrote in 2008, “But at my age, I have a hard time remembering the steps. Dancing requires more exercise than bowling.”
Hino’s life of Riley took a tragic turn in 2003, however, with the passing of his beloved wife, Chieko. Suddenly, the effervescent grin was gone and Hino disappeared from public view for a while. After taking some time off from his schedule, and a good deal of soul-searching, he emerged with as much zest as ever, even incorporating the loss of his beloved “Chicky” into his jokes.
“I hit my head on something at home and got a nice cut and a bump,” he remembered. “I went to dance class that day and everyone said, ‘What happened?’ I told them my wife came down and hit me over the head, just to be sure I’m behaving myself.”
“She always told me to retire, but she knew I enjoy doing all this stuff. It keeps me going,” he added.
Named the Rafu’s 2008 male Athlete of the Year, Hino spent that holiday season bowling and making yet another jaunt to Vegas – after the week’s scores had been reported to the Rafu.
“I don’t mind anything I do for this league. It’s a good thing to do with my time,” he said.
It was a good thing, indeed, Yuk.
So long, old pal.
Funeral services for Yuk Hino are scheduled for 11 a.m. this Saturday, Aug. 13, in the SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills in Whittier.