Okunami, ‘Voice of the Vikings,’ did ‘everything from the heart’

  • Royden Okunami dies Monday night at the age of 86

Royden Okunami, known as the “Voice of the Vikings” as the public address announcer for basketball, baseball and football games for 38 years since 1979, died on Monday night. He was 86 years old.

He was also a Hilo High boys basketball assistant when the team won the state championship in 2000 and was involved with the Stanley Costales Sr. Memorial Baseball Tournament since its inauguration in 1993.

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In 2007, Okunami was selected as the Outstanding Viking Baseball Sportsman. He coached organized baseball for over 15 years and coached the Kaumana-Ainako Twins, AJA Baseball, and other youth organizations. He spent over 50 years with youth organizations. He was president of the Hawaii AJA Memorial Baseball League.

“I always emphasize teaching athletes life lessons through sports so they will be prepared for their lives and their own families,” he said back in 2016. “Being on time, having good practice habits, social skills, and developing mentally and physically, are more important than the wins and losses.”

He and his wife, Sue Okunami, have three children, Scott, Peter, and Roanne, who all attended Hilo High.

“He loved people,” Sue said. “He did everything from the heart, and he really was a Viking.”

Okunami was born in Kohala on Aug. 3, 1934, and was raised in Honokaa as the youngest of three children.

During World War II, his family raised vegetables for the war effort and moved to Hilo in 1947.

He graduated in the Hilo High class of 1952. He attended the University of Hawaii, Hilo branch, the precursor to Hilo College and later UH-Hilo. Okunami played for the “Little Rainbows” for two years before attending the University of Hawaii. He’s a graduate of the class of 1958 as a physical education and Health and Recreation major.

Okunami was the Senior League manager for three years and the program director of the Honolulu YBA. In 1962, he married Sue Yamase of Kauai and later had three children.

In 1963, he returned to Hilo and started as an insurance investigator before working as a Prudential insurance agent until his retirement in 1989.

Okunami coached in five different baseball leagues with the Waiakea Pirates, Corsairs, Kaumana Ainako Twins, AJA Twins, and the Pony Ainako Twins.

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He began announcing sports in 1979, following the late Ed Nakamura, until his retirement during the 2016-17 BIIF season.

“Everybody said he was always positive and encouraged people,” longtime friend Curtis Chong said. “He was always about teaching life lessons.”