Love, she notes, really does conquer all if you’re careful not to induce allergic reactions. “After he retired (in the 90s), he’d take me fishing at a lake, but I didn’t have to bait the hook or, if I caught one, I didn’t have to take the fish off. He always used to joke that I was a terrible fisherman and the fish really had to be dumb if I caught one. I often didn’t notice one was on the line, didn’t feel it jerk. One time I got my line with a fish on it caught in the anchor line. He really laughed like crazy at that and wouldn’t let me forget it...If he was going to cook fish in the house, I’d be on the way out, tell him he was committing adultery again with his fish. Of course he’d air the place out before I came back.”
She’ll never forget how it was decided where they would get married in 1989.
“Richard called me one day at work and told me his boat was in for repairs in Cairns, Australia (the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). He said, ‘Why don’t you come here and we’ll get married here?’ I said OK and asked when. He said, ‘Two weeks.’”
Needless to say, she had to scramble just to get a dress, a visa, two bridesmaids and an airplane ticket for her own wedding. It was hectic, but she loved it. The spur of the moment idea was pure Richard. “He drove me down to Sydney and it was great.” Later, there would be a reception in California where her family and friends could greet the newlyweds.
Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami says her husband seemed to be born with a love of the sea. His dad was a fisherman. “His father was on a boat that went down in Alaska and was never found. But Richard wanted to be a fisherman like his dad. He wanted to start doing it professionally at 16 but his uncle said he had to graduate from high school first.”
At sea, he became a big reader, and his wife was proud that he seemed to know everything about the oceans and fish. People would write him asking him things about the ocean and he’d research it to get the right answer, which continued well after his retirement.
It was Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami’s job to come up with the right accounting answers for TRW/Northrop Grumman. “I’m proud of being with the same company for 34 years.” Once she had to go troubleshoot a problem in New Mexico that saw her company shorted millions of dollars on a government contract. She found how the government accounting system had missing information, which government administrators agreed with. “I asked if I could have the check then and they wanted to know if I could wait for an hour. I said sure because we had already waited two months. I walked out of there with a check for $30 million.”
A two time graduate of UCLA -- she did her undergraduate work in economics and earned her master’s in accounting and business management -- Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami says that since her 2009 retirement she hasn’t missed traveling across the U.S. to solve accounting problems. She and her husband would go to casinos, enjoy the shows and staycations, go fishing, just spend time together. She continues to enjoy the theater, frequently traveling to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles to attend plays. She also frequently visits her 98-year-old mother, who is in a skilled nursing facility, there.
Once a licensed airplane pilot and an avid golfer and skier -- “Once I get good at something I grow tired of it” -- Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami plans on skydiving soon. “It’s on my bucket list. I’ve already crossed off my list galloping a horse across a desert (in Peru).”
She still seems stunned about what happened last year. One morning her husband felt ill and she took him to the emergency room. Tests revealed he had advanced liver cancer. Regular doctor visits over the years never revealed a problem with his liver. He was medevaced to UCLA for treatment but he died within a week.
“It was a total shock. There was no time to do any planning. It was just terrible.”
Married for 28 years, she says her husband’s illness was made even more stressful by the fact that he had to be taken to Los Angeles for possible life-saving treatment. “We should have the proper medical care in Las Vegas. You shouldn’t have to leave town.”
She not only hopes the endowment for scholarships will help take some of the “horrific debt burden” off students so they can pursue the medical field they want, but that they also increase the number of doctors in Southern Nevada.
“If what my husband and I have done can help increase both the quantity and quality of physicians in Las Vegas, that would be a good thing.”