OCHAZUKE: Memories of the Rev. Howard Noboru Toriumi

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By MAGGIE ISHINO
Originally printed in The Rafu Shimpo on March 22, 2012.

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I was introduced to the Rev. Howard Noboru Toriumi and his family by a dear friend in 1953 at Mt. Hermon, a yearly retreat sponsored by the Japanese Evangelical Society (JEMS) of Los Angeles.

Rev. Howard Toriumi was born in Sacramento on June 2, 1916. His parents owned and operated a grocery store. His mother was a seamstress and taught sewing. He had three brothers: Donald, Den and John.

He attended two years of seminary at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, graduated from UC Berkeley and obtained his theological degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1944.

When God made Rev. Howard Toriumi, he threw away the mold. Even his wife, Setsu, said, “Howard doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

Rev. Howard Toriumi

Rev. Toriumi had a very gentle nature and a well-rounded personality, which appealed to everyone. Yes, he was gentle, yet firm in his decisions and when he decided on an issue, he pursued it and was NEVER “half-way” about anything. Once he believed in a project/program or a person being falsely accused or mistreated, he gave his heart, mind and soul to better the situation. That was why whenever he became involved in church, community events and/or other issues, there was a blessed assurance that everything would be in “good hands.”

I moved to San Francisco in the late ’50s and lived in Japantown and attended Christ United Presbyterian Church, where Rev. Toriumi was the minister. I was “on my own” without a family.

One Sunday after worship service, Rev. Toriumi asked me if I would babysit for his three children since he and his wife had a function to attend. I willingly babysat that Sunday. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship and I also became Auntie Maggie. Through the years the Toriumi children have become a second family to me. Three are now married and have children of their own. It is certainly regrettable that Rev. Toriumi has never met his grandchildren, but I know someday he will.

I will always remember being invited to the Toriumi home to share the joy of the holidays and enjoying the warmth of the family and the delicious food prepared by Setsu.

One of  Rev. Toriumi’s outstanding features was his leadership in Bible study and prayer meetings. I attended these when I was a member of his congregation in San Francisco. Some of the things that he taught and said still linger in my mind after these many years.

He was a man with a sense of humor. He loved fishing and with what little time he had off, he enjoyed the sport. I used to “tease” him by asking him, “Rev. Toriumi, do  you go fishing for the ‘halibut’ or do you catch anything?” He would laugh.

His wife wished for a piano one Christmas since she was quite a pianist and wanted one in her home. It was during a sad economic era and times were tough, so for Christmas, he gave her a “toy” piano.

A few years later, upon Rev. Toriumi and his family’s arrival  to Los Angeles, he conducted a Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer meeting session in my apartment. I would prepare dinner for six to eight people who joined us for these sessions. What a wonderful time of fellowship we had! It lasted until someone was able to take over the responsibility of the Wednesday evening sessions and it was then held at Union Church.

From right, Irene Yuhara, Laura Stephens and Councilmember Jan Perry at the dedication of Rev. Howard Toriumi Plaza on Feb. 24. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

While at Christ United Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and at Union Church of Los Angeles, Rev. Toriumi was my confidant at all times. I knew I could go to him for any problems, any thoughts I had, and he would wisely advise me. I will always remember when he vigiled with my brother and me for several hours while my mother was having an extremely delicate and serious surgery. He comforted us and gave us courage at a time of great need.

During his pastorship, Rev. Toriumi also served at the Protestant church in Topaz, Utah (concentration camp); Parkview Presbyterian Church in Sacramento; and Westview Presbyterian Church in Watsonville.

On Feb. 24, 2012, because of Rev. Toriumi’s leadership and dedicated service to many functions and community enterprises in which he was involved, the plaza located at First and San Pedro streets was named and dedicated to him. Although somewhat belated, it was a simple but impressive dedication to a man of whom God can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Rev. Howard Toriumi went to his heavenly home on July 5, 1987. It was a great loss. All who knew him will always remember him as a righteous crusader who fought and made the communities in which he lived and served a better place.

My eternal gratitude to him for his kindness and being there for me as a pastor and friend will always remain in my heart. His children will always be a second family to me. God has truly blessed me with the meeting of the Rev. and Mrs. Toriumi and their children.

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Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached via email. Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. The oldest child, Christine Toriumi, was my dear friend. She was just like her father and mother: kind, loving, generous, peaceful, and thoughtful. She could spend an entire paycheck on her inner city classroom and children. I was so blessed to have her in my life. I miss her terribly.

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