Hometown Hero for April: Longtime resident supports local businesses, families in need through one-eyed selfies

Bruce Honda promotes Federal Way’s local businesses, coordinating with Communities in Schools to help families in need during COVID-19 pandemic.

Bruce Honda is no stranger to one-eyed selfies.

From an airplane’s aisle seat upon boarding or the window seat at take-off, Honda’s self-portraits allow him to share quips about his travel adventures with friends and family.

“Most of my life I’ve traveled in some form or fashion because most of what I do requires me to be in the field,” said Honda, a process control engineer for Weyerhaeuser Company.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has halted his business travel for the time being, Honda’s selfie skills are now used to support and promote local Federal Way businesses.

Honda, who has lived in the city for nearly 40 years, is both a University of Washington and Federal Way High School graduate after moving to Federal Way from Hawaii in August 1971.

The longtime Federal Way resident is well known in the local community as the unofficial photographer of city happenings. Behind his Nikon lens, Honda captures memories while also documenting the presence of his wife, Federal Way City Council President Susan Honda, at various events, holiday celebrations, meetings and more.

Honda was on his way to an out-of-state job site on March 2 when Weyerhaeuser issued employees to work at home and banned travel.

“I didn’t get the word until I landed in Chicago and got the ‘go’ from my boss to complete the week on site and then come home,” he said. That very week, North Carolina reported the state’s first positive case of COVID-19 in Raleigh from a person who had visited the Kirkland Life Center, he said.

While still able to work from home, Honda said he felt it was important to support the local businesses and restaurants as often as he could during this time of closures and operation restrictions.

“In the past I’ve put up my ‘one-eyed’ travel selfies, so why not do something similar to help our local businesses?” said Honda, the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for April.

The idea behind his trademark photo evolved from his cousin who lives in Chicago and often posted photos of her nature walks, always accompanied with a posed one-eyed image.

Honda estimates he’s supported about 40 local restaurants so far. It started with visiting familiar restaurants such as Billy McHale’s and The Rock Wood Fired Pizza in Federal Way. Now, “it’s moving toward cruising the town and saying, ‘hey check this out!’”

He is on the lookout for restaurants he hasn’t been to recently, or never knew existed. Honda said he also is on a constant search for Federal Way’s best teriyaki.

A new folder on his phone is filled with restaurant apps, complete with new memberships to several loyalty points programs. Honda practices social distancing by ordering ahead, wearing a mask and limiting contact during pickups — but still taking time to thank the essential workers.

After posting a couple selfies to his own social media, Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce CEO Rebecca Martin asked Honda to post to their Open for Business Facebook group page to spread the word.

Soon, Development and Communications Director Jessica Cox sparked the idea to add gift cards that can be donated to Communities in Schools to help families in need. The gift card program distributes to families in need based on the CIS school coordinator’s relationship with the students, said Honda, who also has served on the CIS board of directors.

“If it helps out our local businesses, and helps out our kids, that’s really what it’s all about,” Honda said. “It’s pretty tough out there.”

Once a grocery store worker himself, Honda says small businesses will be the backbone of the economy during the recovery from the current health crisis.

He plans to continue exploring and supporting Federal Way’s small businesses until he can, as his travel selfies say, get back “up in the AIR!”