IN MEMORIAM: Remembering Those Who Died in 2013


Following are some of the notable individuals who passed away during the past year, in alphabetical order.

George Aratani

George Aratani

Hats Aizawa, 89, on Oct. 20. A leader and major donor of several San Francisco organizations, including Japan Society, San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Committee, San Francisco Japantown Foundation, and Asian Art Museum.

George Aratani, 95, on Feb. 19. He launched successful international trade enterprises, including Mikasa and Kenwood, and was one of the founders of Keiro Senior HealthCare. He and his wife Sakaye donated a sizable amount of their wealth to such organizations as JACCC, JANM and Union Center for the Arts.

Ruth Asawa, 98, on Aug. 5. A renowned artist and arts educator, she was a pioneer who challenged traditional ideas of what art can be. Many of her sculptures are landmarks in and around San Francisco.

Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa

George Azumano, 95, on Dec. 9. He founded Azumano Travel, a travel agency that emphasized bringing visitors from Japan to Oregon and is now a multi-million-dollar regional enterprise.

Bob Fletcher, 101, on May 23. In 1942, he was a state agricultural inspector who opposed the internment of Japanese Americans. He quit his job and went to work saving farms owned by the Nitta, Okamoto and Tuskamoto families in Florin.

Keiko Fukuda, 99, on Feb. 9. The last living student of judo founder Jigoro Kano, she established a dojo for women in San Francisco and achieved the rank of ninth dan from Kodokan and 10th dan from USA Judo.

Kay K. Fukushima, 75, on Nov. 30, 2012. He rose from a leader of Sacramento Senator Lions Club to president of the International Association of Lions Club, and represented the organization in visits to 78 countries.

Karin Higa

Karin Higa

Beate Gordon, 89, on Dec. 30, 2012. Part of the team that drafted Japan’s post-World War II constitution, she wrote the language regarding legal equality between men and women.

Kimio Hatakeyama, 92, on Feb. 27. He was a principal founder of the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center shortly after World War II and developed it into its present form along with Frank Konno and Yosh Sogioka.

Karin Higa, 47, on Oct. 29. She was an art curator who left her mark at JANM, Hammer Museum and Asia Society, among other institutions, and dedicated her life to making Asian American art more visible.

Harry Honda, 93, on July 3. A major figure in Japanese American journalism, he was best known for his work at the JACL’s newspaper, Pacific Citizen, for 50 years, including 30 years as editor.

Harry Honda

Harry Honda

Shoji Horikoshi, 86, on July 16. A renowned forensics expert, he served 38 years as director of the San Francisco Police Crime Lab, which now bears his name.

Huell Howser, 67, on Jan. 7. The host of the PBS program “California’s Gold,” he devoted several segments to the Japanese American community.

Sam Jameson, 76, on April 19. He was Tokyo bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times from 1971 to 1996 and remained in Japan as a freelancer.

Bill Kasuga, 98, on July 5. In 1961, he started Kenwood USA with George Aratani and Yoichi Nakase. The electronics company grew into a global brand that later merged with JVC.

Cal Kawamoto, 73, on Sept. 22. He served in the Hawaii State Senate for a decade and was a tireless advocate for Waipahu.

Lillian Kawasaki

Lillian Kawasaki

Lillian Kawasaki, 62, on July 18. She was a director of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California, a 2012 candidate for the Long Beach City Council, and co-founder/co-chair of Friends of Manzanar.

Jiroemon Kimura, 116, on June 12. Born in 1897, the Kyotango, Kyoto Prefecture resident was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living person and the oldest man ever.

Jean Sadako King, 87, on Nov. 24. She served as Hawaii’s first female lieutenant governor from 1978 to 1982 and later ran for governor against incumbent George Ariyoshi.

Robert Koga , 83, on Sept. 8. Working with law enforcement agencies across the country, including LAPD, he developed and implemented an integrated system of search, handcuffing, arrest control and self-defense techniques called the Koga Method.

Robert Koga

Robert Koga

Emiko Masuda Komai, 94, on April 19. The wife of the late Akira Komai, publisher of The Rafu Shimpo from 1946 to 1983, she was an integral part of the newspaper’s triumphs and trials.

Kathryn Korematsu, 92, on Oct. 28. She was the wife of the late civil rights hero Fred Korematsu for 58 years and worked with her daughter and son to preserve his legacy.

Martha Longenecker, 93, on Oct. 29. She was founding president and director emerita of Mingei International Museum in San Diego, which she established in 1978.

Jessica Lum, 25, on Jan. 13. A member of the Sacramento Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, she chronicled her battle with cancer in The Modesto Bee and Pacific Citizen.

Mario Machado, 78, on May 4. The first Chinese American newscaster in the Los Angeles market (on KHJ and KNXT) and an eight-time Emmy winner, he was active in soccer and Asian American community affairs.

Wayne Maeda, 65, on Feb. 27. A pre-eminent historian of the Japanese American experience in the Sacramento region, he was one of the founding members of the CSU Sacramento Ethnic Studies Program.

Jack Matsuoka, 87, on Aug. 26. A Nisei cartoonist in the Bay Area, he educated young readers about the internment of Japanese Americans through his book “Poston Camp II, Block 211,” which was based on his experiences as a teenager.

Dr. Mary Oda

Dr. Mary Oda

Claire Mix, 52, on June 12. A filmmaker and author who documented her mother’s experiences as a teacher at the Gila River internment camp. She produced a film, “Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story.”

Capt. Reid Nishizuka, 30, on April 27. A member of the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron out of Beal Air force Base, he was one of four airmen killed when an Air Force MC-12 aircraft went down near Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. His name was added to the Japanese American National War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo on May 25.

Dr. Mary Sakaguchi Oda, 93, on Oct. 18. Her medical career began at Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, but her legacy stemmed from her joining her brother, Dr. Sanbo Sakaguchi, a surgeon in practice in San Fernando, and her sister Lily, who worked as a lab technician. For 46 years, she worked assiduously and thrived on assisting in deliveries.

Ken Oka, 62, on May 25. A popular and experienced skydiver, he was part of a group of skydivers attempting a multiple-person maneuver over Riverside County when one of them became entangled in a parachute. Skydiving was his passion for 28 years with over 5,000 jumps.

Ken Oka

Ken Oka

Jewel Okawachi, 84, on July 14. A lifelong resident and former mayor of Albany, Alameda County, she was one of the few Japanese American women to have served as a mayor in the Bay Area.

Koto Okubo, 115, on Jan. 12. A resident of Kawasaki City near Tokyo, she died less than a month after becoming the world’s oldest living female.

Nagisa Oshima, 80, on Jan. 15. An internationally acclaimed director whose films included “In the Realm of the Senses” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.”

Poncie Ponce, 80, on July 19. The Los Angeles-based actor and singer may be best remembered for his role on the late 1950s TV show “Hawaiian Eye.”

Donald Richie, 88, on Feb. 19. An American-born author who wrote extensively about the Japanese people and Japanese cinema.

Dr. Sanbo Sakaguchi

Dr. Sanbo Sakaguchi

Dr. Sanbo Sakaguchi, 95, on May 24. He had a medical practice for more than 55 years and was a major supporter of community organizations, including JANM, JACCC, and San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center, as well as UCLA, his alma mater.

Tom Sakamoto, 95, on Oct. 18. He was a member of the first class at the MIS Language School at the Presidio of San Francisco during World War II and became an instructor. He served with Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific and witnessed Japan’s formal surrender in 1945.

Toshi Seeger, 91, on July 9. For 70 years, she was folk singer Pete Seeger’s wife and his close partner in social and environmental activism.

Dr. Sakaye Shigekawa

Dr. Sakaye Shigekawa

Dr. Sakaye Shigekawa, 100, on Oct. 18. A pioneering Nisei physician who persevered through sexism and prejudice to build a successful medical care, she is believed to have delivered more than 20,000 babies during her career, which began in the 1940s.

Anabel Stenzel, 41, on Sept. 22. She and her twin sister, Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, were born with cystic fibrosis, but defied the odds by living to adulthood through lung transplants. They were advocates for organ donation and were the subject of a film, “The Power of Two.”

Dorothy Stroup, 85, on March 8. Her 1987 novel “In the Autumn Wind” was the first fictional treatment of the Hiroshima bombing written by a Western author.

Anabel Stenzel

Anabel Stenzel

Taketsugu Takei, 82, on Jan. 18. He was the first Asian American judge on the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he served for 20 years.

Laura Takeuchi, 58, on Aug. 1. Known for her work with seniors in the Bay Area Japanese American community, she served as executive director of Japanese American Services of the East Bay (now J-Sei) for 16 years.

Kip Tokuda, 66, on July 13. A Democrat, he represented Seattle’s 37th Legislative District in the Washington House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002 and had just been appointed to the Seattle Community Police Commission.

Eiji Toyoda, 100, on Sept. 17. A member of Toyota’s founding family, he helped create the super-efficient “Toyota Way” production method.

Masako Wada, 100, on Oct. 11. She and her late husband, businessman and community leader Fred Wada, worked together on a variety of causes, including rebuilding U.S.-Japan relations after World War II and establishing Keiro, a facility for Japanese American seniors.

Masako Wada

Masako Wada

Hiroshi Yamauchi, 85, on Sept. 19. He ran Nintendo for more than 50 years, leading its transition from playing-card maker to video game giant, and owned the Seattle Mariners.

Takashi Yanase, 94, on Oct. 15. The creator of one of Japan’s most beloved cartoon characters, Anpanman.

George Yoshitake, 84, on Oct. 17. As a civilian photographer for the U.S. government, he was part of a secret film unit that recorded several nuclear tests in Nevada and the Pacific in the 1950s and ’60s. Unlike many of his colleagues, he lived for decades after that.



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