(The following narrative is a continuation of a series of how a member was introduced to Rotary and subsequent memories. If you would like Rotary to be part of your life's story, please contact Alison Proctor at alisonproctor@gmail.com.) 

Steve Okamoto

F.C. Member since August 2013

Rotary Member since June 1982

July 2021

In 1982 District Governor Sid Berlin asked me to start a new club in Redwood Shores. I had an office in RWS so I said, “sure”. I really didn’t know much about Rotary at the time but with the new members we all learned quickly. Don Horsely and Warren Slocum were all in the initial club.

We tried our best to grow the club but it was difficult as there were very few businesses in RWS at the time. We did get a lot of folks who made up at the club since our lunches were at the Sofitel Hotel and the food was always outstanding, even at $15.

We had one notable achievement when we elected Elaine White to be our club president. We had heard she may have been the first woman president elected to a Rotary club.

We eventually folded the club in 1992 and a few members went to other clubs in the area. I had moved my office to San Francisco so I dropped out until 2013 when I joined the Foster City Club.

I have enjoyed my time with the club where I was involved with recruiting speakers, taking minutes and being involved in the club activities such as the summer concert and CityFest selling hamburgers and turkey legs. Even greater fun was working the Holi Festival doing my best to stay clean with all the colors being thrown around.

Rotary’s slogan, “Service Above Self” really resonates with me because everything I am involved in outside of Rotary involves “service” especially my family. My parents were service minded people being leaders in the Japanese American community in San Francisco for over 50 years. My sister, Barbara, performed service as a Hawaii state legislator for 34 years. My brother, Allen, is quite involved in the San Francisco Japan Town being the chairman for many years of the Cherry Blossom Festival. He is affectionately called the “Mayor of Japan Town”.

My most memorable service to the community was the four years serving as a council member for Foster City. Those years were so important because it was apparent I was able to make a difference in people’s lives. My biggest influence was to make indoor smoking illegal in all parts of Foster City. I was very proud of that accomplishment.

Going forward my days of service will not end soon. I have created a sister city relationship with Foster City and Inagi City of Japan. This relationship will teach residents of both cities about another culture. (On 7/26, there will be an official signing ceremony.) I am also creating a memorial plaza at the Shops at Tanforan to honor the 8,000 persons of Japanese ancestry that were incarcerated there in 1942. Finally, I am working with a filmmaker to make a documentary chronicling the 90 year history of the JACL, the oldest and largest Asian civil rights organization in the country.