Don Nakata leaves legacy of caring
June 10, 2008 · Updated 5:38 PM
"Don Nakata died on Tuesday. But, the spirit of Kaizen lives on. Nakata, president of Town & County Markets, suffered a major stroke while vacationing with his wife Ellen in Louisiana, where he died at Lafayette General Hospital. The couple was enjoying a bus tour and had told their friends how excited they were to have a chance to see the Mississippi River. A memo from the Town & Country board of directors telling employees of his death described Nakata as the heart and soul of our company...his teaching and his spirit reside in many of us whom he has profoundly touched over the years. Even though his physical self is now gone, his legacy of kindness and compassion burns as brightly as ever before. 'To live, to learn, and to pass it on' was one of his favorite sayings. Nakata, 65, was the original manager of Viking Mark-It Foods when it opened in 1974 in Poulsbo. The store, which has since undergone three major remodelings, is now known as Poulsbo Market Thriftway. His personal involvement with the store and employees continued long after management of the Poulsbo store passed to Tom Hall and then later to Al Moore, store director for the past 19 years. He was so genuinely kind and gentle, he always had time for everybody. He knew how to walk that fine line of being kind and being a good businessman, Moore recalled. In all the time I knew him, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody or anything. Whenever these things happen, you really don't believe it until the service happens and then there's that closure. We're trying to do business as usual, Moore said, but it's really tough. Nakata's passing has also been felt at Central Market, a store Nakata helped to conceive and create. Hall, the Central Market store director, said the last few days have been pretty somber and quiet. There is a huge loss. I think I can speak for the people here, we have lost a friend, a mentor, a leader and a visionary. I think about him as a teacher. He was my mentor and leader, Hall explained. He gave me a philosophy to live by. It was something for me to carry on to my family and kids and co-workers. It's so powerful. The loss of a community friend and generous benefactor was also felt outside the walls of the stores he helped create. Hall said that many calls have come in from community members who have been very supportive. It's been so nice to hear that so many people had an opportunity to connect with Don. In his own quiet way, he gave to this community through others, Hall said. He never wanted anything in return, he just believed in helping others. He believed in people helping people. Nakata and his wife Ellen were actively involved in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which raises money for breast cancer research. The Nakatas were proud members of a team of 634 people - possibly the largest in the state - at last month's fundraiser at Safeco Field. The Susan G. Komen foundation presented the Nakatas with a trophy, honoring them for their many years of fundraising support. Most of Nakata's gifts to his community were less well known. He generously, quietly supported community organizations, events and individuals in need. In addition to Central Market and Poulsbo Market Thriftway, the Town & Country company also owns and manages Town & Country Thriftway on Bainbridge Island, Ballard Market Thriftway, Greenwood Market Thriftway and Shoreline Central Market. A decision has not yet been made about whether Poulsbo Market Thriftway and Central Market will be closed during Nakata's funeral services, planned for 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at Sakai School on Bainbridge Island. Nakata was born on Bainbridge Island on July 11, 1934. As a child, he and his family were interned during World War II. His father, John, and his uncle Moe Nakata founded Town & Country Market on Bainbridge with Ed Loverich in the late 1950's. He graduated from Seattle University in 1957. He married Ellen Nakata on Jan. 20, 1962 in Honolulu. He is survived by his wife Ellen, Bainbridge Island; daughters Susan Allen and Julie Bowman of Bainbridge Island; brothers Robert, Seattle and Wayne and Vernon, both of Bainbridge and four grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to a favorite charity, the Susan G. Komen Breast Foundation, P.O. Box 75900, Seattle 98145-1900, or the Bainbridge Foundation. "