SEATTLE — A restaurant icon in Seattle and her husband became casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic just days apart, KING-TV reports.
Liz Mar, 72, was co-owner of the popular Hawaiian restaurant Kona Kitchen, which she started 18 years ago with her daughter Angie and son-in-law, actor Yuji Okumoto. The restaurant has two locations. Many customers referred to Mar, who worked full-time, as “Auntie Liz” or “Grandma Liz.”
The restaurant’s website describes Kona Kitchen as “a casual family dining experience where you’ll find a tempting array of Hawaiian and Japanese dishes prepared with the care of a home-cooked meal … a quiet, relaxing spot to catch your breath amid the bustling lifestyle Seattle natives are used to. Stop in, say ‘hi’ and find out why Kona Kitchen’s loyal regulars keep coming back.”
Mar showed signs of the illness on March 8 and was hospitalized at University of Washington Medical Center’s Northwest Campus (formerly Northwest Hospital) two days later. She died on March 25.
Her husband Robert, 78, started showing symptoms on March 9 and was hospitalized three days later. He died on March 27 The couple passed away at the same hospital at the same time of day, 1:35 a.m.
Survived by three children and seven grandchildren, they would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August.
“It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss that we announce the passing of our beloved Elizabeth Mar,” Kona Kitchen posted on Facebook on March 25. “After battling the virus for nearly two weeks, Liz succumbed to the serious illness in the early morning hours of March 25, 2020.
“For those of you who knew her, Liz was always a great source of Aloha. She shall be fondly remembered as the best grandma, fun-loving friend, devoted spouse, generous benefactor, first-rate source of amusing gossip and mother extraordinaire. We shall forever miss her cheerfulness, wonderful sense of humor and kind heart.
“Due to the current situation caused by the pandemic, memorial services are uncertain. However, we will keep you posted as the situation improves …
“Mahalo for all of the kind thoughts, prayers and support during these difficult times.”
The announcement got about 1,200 comments and 1,000 shares. Hawaii filmmaker Stacey Hayashi (“Go For Broke: An Origin Story”) wrote, “I’m so very sorry to hear this. I’m glad I got to meet her and so did Jake [Shimabukuro]. Thank you for sharing her with us. My deepest condolences, love, aloha, and hugs to your ohana.”
In a post on March 15, Angie Okumoto discussed her mother’s illness as a warning to others to take the virus seriously: “I’m reaching out to our Kona Ohana, as I know many of you have been coming to the restaurant for years and have gotten to know my mom, Liz. Although HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] laws protect her privacy, I believe she would want you all to know what is going on.
“Liz was not feeling well and went home early on Sunday, March 8, and laid down to rest. (That was the last day she was at Kona Lynnwood.) She didn’t get out of bed the whole day and night, so I took her to a clinic the next morning. She was given a prescription for an inhaler.
“I asked if my mom could get tested for COVID 19, but they were dismissive. They simply responded with she did not fit the algorithm. Apparently, since she didn’t have a fever, she wasn’t eligible for their limited testing. She was sent home without being tested.
“Liz continued to get worse, her oxygen saturation level was between 86%-89%. After having trouble breathing, she was taken to the ER and admitted. Liz was initially diagnosed with pneumonia, and then finally tested for COVID 19.
“After waiting a day, I received the dreaded call. The test came back positive. My heart sank. She’s in the ICU now, and we’re hoping she recovers.
“We felt it imperative to inform you all about this and I’m sure my mom would agree. What happened to her can happen to anyone. Until there is more testing made available, we are at the mercy of this flawed detection system.
“Please be proactive and take this virus seriously. As many younger people are showing little to no signs or symptoms, we should all practice social distancing and take precautions around the elderly.”
After the loss of her parents, Okumoto, who said she felt like she was having “a nightmare that I can’t seem to wake up from,” told KING, “I just want to encourage people to embrace each moment with any loved one, anyone close to you. Someone starts to get sick with this virus, I think it’s important to … embrace those moments and say what you want to say to each other and have that closure …
“The way the diseases progressed – you think that they are on the mend, and they’re getting healthy and before you know it they get very sick, very quickly, and you have no time. You feel robbed – robbed of the time with them.”