It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of a beloved and revered figure in the history of AADAP, Mike Watanabe, MSW, LHD, our founding leader and President Emeritus. Mike passed away at his Los Angeles home in the early hours of Friday November 3, 2023, leaving a profound and enduring legacy that will forever resonate within our organization and the broader community.
For 46 of AADAP’s 51 years, Mike Watanabe was a transformative force as the organization steadily evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of our community. Born on August 23, 1946, in Pa’auilo, Hawai’i, Mike’s early years instilled in him the spirit of ‘Ohana, a sentiment he carried with him throughout his life. After returning from Vietnam, he pursued an undergraduate degree at CalState Northridge and an MSW from UCLA. In 1975, Mike joined AADAP as a counselor, rapidly ascending to lead the residential treatment program, introducing the enduring therapeutic community model. In 1982, he became executive director, and in 2004, he assumed the role of President and CEO. Mike’s impact on AADAP was immeasurable, a legacy of enduring transformation.
Mike’s legacy extends beyond mere statistics. He nurtured AADAP into a place of healing and growth, a safe haven for those in need. A mentor to many and a catalyst for the growth of leaders within our organization, Mike exemplified the values of advocating for what is right and serving the community unwaveringly. We will forever honor and cherish Mike Watanabe’s memory, celebrating his enduring contributions to AADAP and the countless lives he touched throughout his remarkable journey.
Our hearts and prayers go out to Mike’s devoted wife, Suzie, and the entire family. Mike and Suzie were not only the driving forces behind AADAP but also the most generous supporters of our mission. Their steadfast dedication to our cause will forever be remembered and celebrated.