Floral Tribute Links Swimming History with Veterans Day

A small, “small world” back story for Natatorium history buffs: The floral display that adorned the front gate of the War Memorial during Monday’s Veterans Day commemoration was provided by Sono Hirose, daughter of pioneer swimmer Takashi “Halo” Hirose.

gate and flowers

Sono Hirose’s floral tribute to her Dad and all Hawai'i's veterans

Additional flowers and accompanying lei were hung on the gate after the somber, ceremonial playing of Taps by Johnny Sanchez with Bugles Across America.

Sono Hirose’s father Halo was one of Hall of Fame Coach Soichi Sakamoto’s prodigies from Maui, a competitor in many Natatorium meets and one of Hawai’i’s most celebrated swimmer/soldiers. Among other accomplishments, he was a world record holder in the 400-meter freestyle relay in 1938, at age 16. He was selected as a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1940, though the games scheduled for Tokyo that year were canceled because of World War II.

Halo Hirose was a veteran of the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and its celebrated 100th Infantry Battalion, known as the “Purple Heart Battalion.” He served his country in critical battles in Anzio, Italy, and Bruyeres, France.

At the end of the war and his service in the 100th, Halo Hirose returned to swim at Ohio State, winning Big Ten and NCAA titles in the 100-yard freestyle and helping the Buckeyes to Big Ten, NCAA and AAU team championships.

We thank Sono for remembering her remarkable father and honoring all veterans with her beautiful gift of flowers. Mahalo!

Categories: Events, History, Images, Uncategorized, Veterans, and Veterans Day.


  1. MJ

    It is so beautiful and such a dream to be able to make it new again. Such an incredible tribute to the service people of WWII. I wish it could be…Always praying.

  2. sono

    wow! thank you for your memories of halo and “those days” but more to brenda? and fred my new BFFs it turned out so beautiful and you took it over the top:) the power of the zip pie tie! aloha sono hirose hulbert ps thanks melissa for thinking of me at the last minute is was super fun!

  3. Erin Flinn

    Halo was my swim coach at Hawaii kai swim team. I was very young and only knew that he was a my coach and that he truly understood how to inspire me. He called me his little Irish Rose and it is a nickname that has been in my heart my intire life. Until just recently I had never known his background, his history, his amazing character. I think I always knew how much he meant to me but never who he was in his life. It has been enlightening to read and learn about a man that I have always spoken so highly of. He has played such a strong role in my life and he never even knew it. I felt as if he took me under his wing and made me feel important. I swam throughout my life starting at age 1 1/2 due to a heart condition and continued through until I was 17. I struggled throughout many of the later years with swimming because I always compared our coach to him and quite frankly none lived up to his true understanding and motivational way. He was a great man and will forever be missed by me. I wish I could have told him so during his life. To his family I say thank you for sharing your husband and father with me. Aloha – Officer Erin Flinn aka Irish Rose

    • admin

      Erin, thank you for posting your heartfelt comment. We have forwarded your message to Coach Halo Hirose to his daughter, Sono. We’re certain the Hirose family appreciates your remembering their father/grandfather and his contributions to swimming. Mahalo!