- Argonne Elementary School, San Francisco (K-6)
- Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy, Kamuela (7-11)
- George Washington High School, San Francisco (1970)
- San Francisco State University, CA (B.A. Japanese 1974)
Audrey Joan Nakamura Case
Born at Kapi’olani Women and Children’s Medical Center October 28, 1952. Daughter of Rev. James Saburo (born Honolulu) and Magdalene Hirata (born Kona) Nakamura. Youngest of 5 children: John Nakamura, Pat Nekoba, Lillian Dixson, Catherine Nakamura Gruenwald, Audrey
I was born in Honolulu. We lived in Palolo Valley where my father was the minister at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church on 10th Ave. My earliest memory was spending the night all alone in the hospital because I was crawling over a pew during Sunday morning service and fell on my head.
My second clearest memory was when we moved to San Francisco when I was 5 years old, on an airplane that took all night. My father was one of the few bilingual Japanese Episcopal ministers and had an opportunity to minister to a predominantly Japanese congregation in SF.
My mother was all for exposing us kids to the mainland. She was a registered nurse and was able to attend nursing school in the mainland with the financial help of her brothers. My mother wanted us to have the same opportunity that she and my father had with their mainland experience. When we settled into church housing I was very upset because I couldn’t find my favorite yellow T-shirt and red shorts. My mother conveniently misplaced them during the move and insisted I wear a dress with socks, shoes and little white gloves. It was very upsetting.
We lived in SF for nearly 6 years. It was a great time for all of us once we all adjusted to mainland ways. From around 8 years old I had to bus it to Japanese school and to the San Francisco Ballet Company for classes. We didn’t get driven anywhere by our parents. It was either the bus or walk!
We moved back to Hawai‘i when my father transferred to a small church in Kamuela on the Big Island where I attended Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy (and met Ed). By then my brother and oldest sister were off on their own so it was just myself, Lillian and Catherine. They were there for one and two years, respectively. The summer before I turned 13, my parents, a sister and I were in a car accident on the old Saddle Road on the Big Island. My mother didn’t survive.
For a few years my father and I made a life together in Kamuela before I left in the middle of my junior year to live with my oldest sister, Pat and her new husband, Lloyd (Nekoba), in San Francisco. I was determined to attend college on the mainland and, with very limited resources, this was an option that also kept me close to family.
I worked my way through college; Pat and Lloyd returned to Kona when I was a sophomore. In my junior and senior years I worked at I.Magnin’s in San Francisco. I.Magnin’s was a high end retail store much like Neiman Marcus. I worked in nearly all departments and, when I graduated, was offered a management position. It was a daunting offer because I had no formal business background, but I really needed a job.
After two years of twelve hour days, I took a break and came home to Hawai‘i. My father had been remarried to Louise Nishimura-Nagata and it was nice to spend some time together. However, after a couple of weeks he said to me in an offhanded manner: “Why don’t you work for an airline. You’re tall enough. But work for one that goes to foreign countries so you can see more of the world.” I think he was worried I’d never leave home!
His casual suggestions led me to a now-three decade career as a fight attendant, first with a charter airline, then Pan American, and since 1986 United Airlines. My first base with Pan Am was New York. Everyone should live and work in New York for at least a year or two! It’s a fabulous place; very high energy and the people are great. I then transferred to London and finally worked my way back to Honolulu. In 1986 United bought Pan Am’s Pacific Division. I thought I would only fly for a year or two, but the airline business has been a wonderful lifetime career for me, I have seen the world, and, after all these many years, I still love to fly.
I am still recuperating from my many years of shuffling kids to soccer, volleyball, music, school and some very intense years with Ed on the campaign trail and in both D.C. and home. With my free time I enjoy volunteer work, gardening, cooking and sewing. I’ve taught Megan to sew and during the school breaks we usually work on a couple of fun projects.
I like to cook. I have an extensive collection of recipes from newspapers, magazines or just friends and a wonderful assortment of local cookbooks. One of these days, I hope to sort them out into some kind of order and actually make all of them. I used to experiment on the kids but I find they would rather have simple food and were never excited about anything new Mom decided to try for dinner! The kids like being involved with meal preparation and it often gets chaotic in the kitchen but the food tastes better with all their effort. Ed is quite a good cook, especially with fish and salads. He never uses any kind of a recipe. He just goes with the “moment” and amazingly it turns out really good!
I do tai chi and love to play tennis, but I can only fool around with the kids nowadays: no time, too old, bad back, bad knees, etc….I’ve had either dogs, cats, birds, fish, turtles and even chickens during most of my life, and I certainly miss their company right now with all the traveling I do in my job and also with Ed.
I also love my garden, but I don’t have a green thumb. It’s haphazardly productive. I’ve had marginal success with tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and herbs but, for some reason, Megan has been wonderfully successful with her own gardening efforts. She just has the knack.
Like Ed, I have had a full, diverse, rewarding and blessed life. We feel so blessed to have found each other again and to have these chapters in our lives together. I am often asked what it is like to be married to a politician, and I say it is very similar to growing up as a “PK” (priest’s kid.) We do coffee hours, mail outs and most importantly, community service! I know Ed is good for Hawai‘i and our country, and we are truly enjoying our political lives and the incredible friends we have made along the path.
Our kids participated in various sports from 5 years old on into their college years. We always felt it was an important way in which the children could learn teamwork, respect, discipline and how to win and lose with grace. It was also a great venue for them to get to know kids from other schools. Our older two are now in their 20s and they often mention how they’ve connected with kids they played with from AYSO soccer days!
The coaches always stressed nutritious after-game snacks but potlucks were a free for all. With some teams, potlucks were a very serious endeavor. Some dads grilled meats on huge custom-made hibachi or fried something in enormous woks! The rest of us concentrated on dishes that could be made ahead of game time and big enough to feed 10 to 20 people because, local style, other family members always came to watch the kids play.
It was always interesting and fun to share recipes, taste a familiar dish that had an interesting twist to it, and exchange recipe ideas. Over the years we’ve all tried to incorporate healthier items, but in the end there’s nothing like a great potluck to relax the team after a hard week of practice and an intense game.