Check that off the bucket list
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91-year-old Ethel Kay Inouye has done one thing for her past few birthdays, and that’s skydive. It had always been on her bucket list, so she crossed it off — multiple times. It’s just one example of how Inouye has lived her life: With no fear, and no regrets.
“I love looking down at the earth from above, and it makes me feel alive,” Inouye says, recalling her skydiving experiences. “I feel like you don’t know how much time you have left, so if you have something you want to do, go for it.”
Inouye was born in 1928 and grew up in Kaimuki. She says she was always pretty independent, but her family calls her stubborn. “The only thing I didn’t do was learn to drive!” she laughs.
In 1947, she got married and lived with her in-laws in Moanalua Gardens. At the time, she worked at Woolworth’s downtown. She would give $15 to the family, but save the rest so that she could eventually go to nursing school. She and her husband later got their own house in Pearl City, where she worked as a nurse with children at Waimano Home for many years.
In 1970, she divorced and moved to Oregon where she became a nurse at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital. She says they began phasing out licensed practical nurses, so on the recommendation of a patient’s wife, she applied for work as a nurse in Saudi Arabia. “It was very interesting, and I was able to travel to a lot of other countries, like Egypt.”
“I worked at the King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh for several years before the Gulf War started,” she continues. “It was very different, but the patients and people were very nice, and it paid very well.”
For Inouye, nursing helped fulfill her passion of helping others. “I loved the patients and their families,” she explains. “They were always so nice to me, and it was a great job to help people.”
Eventually she moved back to Portland and worked for the National Guard, leaving as a Staff Sergeant. By 2012, she decided to move back to Hawaii to be closer to her children and grandchildren.
Aside from being a grandma, her hobbies now include reading, riding the bus, crochet, wood carving, making pine needle baskets, and watching Korean Dramas.