By TOMO HIRAI, Nichi Bei Weekly
SAN FRANCISCO — Noted origami artist Vicky Mihara Avery passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer early in the morning on May 27. She was 62.
She is survived by her parents Nobuo and Shizuko Mihara, younger siblings Linda and Roger Mihara, husband Matthew Avery, son Christopher James Avery, and their two dogs.
Mihara Avery, a lifelong San Franciscan, was born March 24, 1957. She and her sister Linda have been well-known in the origami community. She was one of the first two girls to join the men’s swim team at George Washington High School, and also raced cars and won the 1983 C Street Prepared Ladies Solo II national championship in Salina, Kan.
A renowned gift-wrapper, she wrapped a snowmobile during the 2007 Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper Contest and was also featured on “The Martha Stewart Show.”
Her family and friends, however, remembered her most for her ability to bring people together. “She enjoyed connecting people,” her husband said. “Whether it was teaching or through an event. Whether it was making sure friends stayed in touch. That’s why she has so many damn friends.”
She helped organize the inaugural Pacific Coast OrigamiUSA Convention, along with SaveNature.org’s annual bowling fundraiser. She was active in San Francisco’s Japantown through the Nihonmachi Street Fair, the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Buddhist Church of San Francisco.
Mihara Avery held a degree in business administration from San Francisco State University. She worked at Paper Tree, her family’s paper store in Japantown. She also worked for the San Francisco Zoo, and owned Mountain Valley Paper Company in South San Francisco and Miki’s Paper Company in Berkeley.
At her request, the family held a celebration of life May 25. More than 100 people came.
“Vicky said, ‘I want to meet everybody now before I go, rather than you guys having a party for me after I leave,’” her father said.
Robert J. Lang, an origami artist, had recently moved down to Southern California, but attended the celebration of life to say his farewell.
“One of the hallmarks of Vicky was that no matter whatever happened in organizations, in her store, in her life, she maintained an absolutely unflappable good cheer and nature,” he told the Nichi Bei Weekly via email. “I have never seen her not smile!”
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 29, at 11 a.m.\ at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, 1881 Pine St., in San Francisco’s Japantown. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, a contribution be made to Guide Dogs for the Blind, Glaucoma Research Foundation, or SaveNature.org.