Born in 1924 to Japanese parents in Honolulu, Hawaii, George Murakami learned quite young how to foster many talents.
“I made my own surfboards. A quality board cost at least $1,000, so I would cut wood seven feet long, shape it two and one half inches thick, and polish it with wax.”
George later became fascinated with the art of hula when he met his first girlfriend, a freshman classmate at the University of Hawaii, whose poise as a professional hula dancer also charmed tourists. “She taught me how to make grass skirts with leaves from a taro plant. We would hike the mountains early in the morning, return to Waikiki Beach with leaves in hand, and prepare her to dance at a resort.”
George’s life changed course, however, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941, George was only 17. He left his family and college sweetheart for basic training in the United States. His later service in Japan involved language interpretation and law enforcement. “It was a bit scary,” shares George, “I did not want to say the wrong thing.” George spent one year studying linguistics in Japan. He served two and a half years in the military under Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur.
While a pre-med student at Syracuse University after World War II, George fell in love on a blind date and eventually moved to Manhattan to marry the daughter of a businessman. He relinquished his dream of being a doctor to work alongside his father-in-law crafting lamps. “Business was lucrative. I met celebrities like Dustin Hoffman and Lauren Bacall.” Travels included Chile, Argentina, Spain and Italy, where he received inspiration. “I would purchase uncanny bases for lamps, like wine bottles, for example, add wire, and voila!”
Retirement in Sarasota, Florida, was his next destination until finally nesting here in Maryland. “I miss the weather in Hawaii, and I miss buying fine, inexpensive suits in upstate New York, but the staff at Kensington Park treats me like a friend. I’m finally home.”