By MAGGIE ISHINO
Henry, Hank, Henry T., Ishi, these were names for one guy, depending on what circle of friends he was with or place he was, at the moment. Henry was my younger brother and was born on June 23, 1927.
He and I spent our childhood together in San Diego. We climbed trees; played cops and robbers; collected butterflies, marbles and stamps; raced pet turtles; raised rabbits; cared for our goldfish; raised silkworms and watched them go through metamorphosis.
We fought with each other quite frequently as children but, even if our parents reprimanded me or said something not quite to Henry’s liking, he always came to my defense and protected his big sister.
Henry was rather obese, approximately 5’5-1/2”. He had beautiful brown eyes which would twinkle mischievously when in a teasing or playful mood or sparkle with rage when provoked or angered. He was a man of many talents and loved the game of chance—Las Vegas, horseracing, dog racing, were the things he enjoyed because these gave him a challenge. He thrived on challenges.
He could have been anything he wanted to be had he put his mind to it, but he was just plain Henry, jack of most trades. He learned to play the piano so it would limber his fingers in order that he could learn to play the violin. He took a course in hair designing and costume jewelry designing. I still have the butterfly he designed for me after all these years. He was an expert cook and had no problem alternating his shirts and trousers if needed. I often teased him by saying, “You’d make some woman a good wife.”
His love for children and animals was profound. He would go out of his way to buy expensive toys for his nieces, nephews and children of his friends. In spite of his bark, he had a heart of gold. He was sensitive, generous, kind and thoughtful to the extent he was taken advantage of a few bitter times in his life. Yet he would never change and continued to share and care for those who asked for help.
There was one particular co-worker who was rather lonely. Henry would bring him home for dinner. After dinner, we would play games, such as checkers, Chinese checkers, monopoly, etc. His friend said, “You know, I have more fun here and enjoy being here so much.”
Henry retorted, “Good, I think I will start charging you admission.” Of course, Henry was teasing and had that twinkle in his eyes.
Henry and I both worked for the County of San Diego and our offices were in the same building. My office was on the 7th floor and his was on the first floor. He told his co-workers and employer that they had better be nice to him because he had a mean and real tough big sister on the 7th floor. One afternoon while I was monitoring the front desk for my co-worker who went to lunch, Henry’s employer came to the 7th floor.
He came to the desk and asked me, “Are you, Maggie, Hank’s big sister?”
I said, “Yes, did something happen to Henry?”
He then told me what Henry said and we both had a big laugh.
During the late 40’s Henry and I shared an apartment in Washington, D.C. I can remember Henry was developing a film at 2 a.m. He informed me that he had entered a photography contest and that he was going to win.
I told him, “Forget it and go to sleep.”
Six months later, Henry won second place and was awarded a $50 war bond and a plaque depicting the picture he took of the U.S. Marines landing on Mt. Suribachi. This was quite a happy and proud occasion since the contest was opened to those in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. Henry nearly excelled in anything he pursued but photography was truly his forte.
Henry had a by-pass heart surgery in June of 1976. When I walked into the intensive care unit where he was fighting for his life, the happy moments of childhood which we had together flashed back in my mind. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I prayed, “Oh, God, spare my little brother.”
God spared Henry’s life for almost two years. Henry realized the closeness of God and that God does truly answer prayers. He wrote me a letter saying, “I am grateful, God gave me a second chance.”
On Jan. 30,1978, Henry again fought for his life for 45 minutes because the doctors felt a pacemaker might prolong his life. However, Henry was too weak and too tired. Though he fought a good fight, he lost the battle.
We held a memorial service for Henry on Feb. 3, 1978. It was a simple but beautiful service. The Rev. Harry Hashimoto gave a heartwarming eulogy woven from the memories he had obtained the night before from my two brothers, my sister, Henry’s two dear friends and me.
It has been 32 years since the passing of Henry, but my little brother will forever been in my thoughts and heart. It will never be, “Sayonara, Henry.”
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Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.