Kathryn Korematsu Dies at 92

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Korematsu Institute released the following statement on Sunday regarding the passing of Kathryn Korematsu, the widow of Fred Korematsu.

Kathryn Korematsu, widow of Fred Korematsu, holds a flyer announcing the firest Fred Korematsu day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution during a visit to the Japanese American National Museum in October 2010. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Kathryn Korematsu, widow of Fred Korematsu, holds a flyer announcing the firest Fred Korematsu day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution during a visit to the Japanese American National Museum in October 2010. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Frances “Kathryn” (Pearson) Korematsu passed away in her sleep on Oct, 28, 2013, in Oakland, Calif., at age 92.

Kathryn had a remarkable life. She was born on March 14, 1921, in Greenville, S.C., but as a child moved around between South Carolina and North Carolina wherever her father, who was a woodworker, could get work in the mills, especially during the Depression Era.

Kathryn was the first one on either side of her family of many cousins to receive a college degree. In June 1942, she received her Bachelor of Science degree from Winthrop College, the South Carolina College for Women (now Winthrop University), in Rock Hill, S.C., and went on to receive a Master of Science degree in medical technology in January 1945 from Wayne University in Detroit, Mich.

After graduation she worked in the lab at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where she did testing on the benefits of penicillin and later taught nurses at Mount Carmel College of Nursing in East Lansing, Mich.

She will be remembered most for her unwavering support and encouragement that was given to her husband, Fred, for 58 years. She married Fred T. Korematsu (1919-2005), an Oakland native, on Oct. 12, 1946, in Detroit, where they met.

They moved to California in 1948. Fred’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Korematsu v. United States, challenged the constitutionality of the Japanese American internment during World War II. He lost his case in 1944, but his conviction was overturned in 1983 when it was proven there was no military necessity for the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry.

Through the years, she was involved in several organizations and charitable work. She served as a Brownie troop leader for the Girl Scouts, den mother for the Cub Scouts, a member of the PTA, “lioness” in the San Leandro Lions Club, and in various programs over the years with the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland.

She was a loving mother to her daughter, Karen, and son, Ken, and a caring mother-in-law to Donald and Cecy. She is also survived by her loving sister-in-law, Carolyn Pearson, and dear nephews and nieces, grandnephews, and grandnieces. She is predeceased by her brother, Paul David, who was 15 years her junior and had an untimely accidental death in 2002, and by her dear little sister, Virginia Lee, who died at the age of 5 of scarlet and rheumatic fevers.

Family and friends attended a memorial service on Saturday, Nov, 30, 2013, at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the First Presbyterian Church, 2619 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612; to the Fred T. Korematsu Institute (via the Asian Law Caucus; please specify the Korematsu Institute in the gift designation) 55 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94111; or a charity of your choosing.

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