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Leader of kamaaina building company had 66-year career

  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                Robert “Bobby” Fujimoto, who represented the third of five generations to lead 99-year-old HPM Building Supply, died April 23 in Hilo at the age of 93.

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Robert “Bobby” Fujimoto, who represented the third of five generations to lead 99-year-old HPM Building Supply, died April 23 in Hilo at the age of 93.

Longevity is something that Robert “Bobby” Fujimoto shared with the kamaaina family business he ran for so long, HPM Building Supply.

Fujimoto, who represented the third of five generations to lead 99-year-old HPM, died April 23 in Hilo at the age of 93.

He was both a grandson of the firm’s co-founder and a grandfather to the firm’s current chief executive.

HPM representatives described Fujimoto as a visionary leader who led the Hilo-based company — which is 100% employee- owned and has eight home improvement and construction materials stores across Hawaii island, Oahu and Kauai — into unique territory during its history.

“My grandfather was an inspiration to us all and lived his life with honor, generosity and aloha,” Jason Fuji- moto, HPM president and CEO, said in a statement.

HPM, which also is known for selling economical home plans, was established in Hilo by Kametaro Fujimoto and fellow contractor Sanzo Kawasaki in 1921 as a lumber mill called Hawaii Planing Mill Ltd.

Robert Fujimoto began running the firm as president in 1954, three years after joining the family business. He retired as CEO in 1992 but continued serving on the company’s board until 2017, which amounted to a 66-year term as a board director that included time as chairman.

Company officials said the late Fujimoto was instrumental in making HPM one of Hawaii’s first businesses to establish an employee profit-­sharing plan in 1959, and then to become part employee-owned in 1977.

Fujimoto also rebuilt the company’s entire Hilo operation after it was decimated by a tsunami in 1960.

The longtime HPM boss served as chairman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, was on the UH Foundation board of trustees and was president of the Aloha Council Boy Scouts of America, among other volunteer positions.

“Although our family is deeply saddened, we are grateful and celebrate Bobby’s many years of selfless service, leadership and commitment to our HPM ohana, our customers and our community,” Jason Fujimoto said.

The late Fujimoto, who died of what his family said were natural causes while they were around him, is survived by his wife of 69 years, Alice (Kurohara) Fujimoto, four children and five grandchildren.

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