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Those We Lost in 2019

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

Jeff Adachi

Jeff Adachi, 59, on Feb. 22. He served in the San Francisco’s Public Defender’s Office for decades and was the elected head of the office from 2003 until his death. He was an advocate for equal justice and a leader in the JA community.

Anne Akabori, 79, on Jan. 12. She wrote two books about Chiune Sugihara, the “Japanese Schindler,” and chaired the Visas for Life Foundation, which educated the public about Sugihara’s story.

Jim Akioka, 89, on Aug. 2. He was facilities manager of the Venice Japanese Community Center from 1976 to 2013 and also served as president and board member, as well as basketball commissioner for Crescent Bay Optimist.

Goro Asaki, on Oct. 31, 2018. An MIS veteran, he became a certified professional engineer and worked for Westinghouse in Baltimore for over 30 years until he retired.

Vicky Mihara Avery, 62 on May 27. Well known in the origami community, she helped organize the inaugural Pacific Coast Origami USA Convention and was a renowned gift-wrapper. Active in San Francisco Japantown, she owned Miki’s Paper Co. in Berkeley.

Paul Bannai

Paul Bannai, 99, on Sept. 14. A veteran of the Military Intelligence Service, he served on the Gardena City Council and was the first JA elected to the California State Assembly (1973-80). He was the first director of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians and was chief memorial affairs director at the VA (1981-85).

Akino Lorraine Brannen, 99, on June 16. She worked as district manager at the Social Security Administration from 1951 until her retirement. She was president of International Soroptimist Club of Pomona and was an active member of Nisei Women’s Golf Club.

Michiko “Mickey” Shimazaki Doktor, 84, on March 2. She was a waitress for decades but her real passion was in various Okinawan and Japanese music associations and the Uchinanchu community.

Patricia Dozen, 70, on Dec. 13. Long-time English/ESL instructor with the Ventura County Community College District; also worked at CSU Long Beach’s Learning Assistance Center.

Dr. Michael Ego, 68, on Jan. 27. His focus and passion in education was Asian American family studies and gerontology. He worked as faculty and administrator at CSU Dominguez Hills, CSU Northridge, San José State University, University of Hawai’i, Hilo, and University of Connecticut.

Dorothy Toy Fong

Dorothy Toy Fong, 102, on July 10. Born Dorothy Takahashi, she rose to fame in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, dancing with Paul Wing as Toy and Wing. They performed on Broadway and in Hollywood films. She later managed and performed with the Oriental Playgirl Revue.

Florence Teruko (Fukuda) Fukushima, 91, on Feb. 9. She was a bookkeeper in the jewelry retail business for almost 50 years.

Namiye Fukuzawa, 93, on March 10. She was active in PTA, Girl Scouts, and Gardena Valley Baptist Church, where she was a member of the Esther Circle and part of the church choir for 40 years.

Teruko “Terri” Furuyama, 94, on May 20. After meeting at Manzanar, she worked tirelessly alongside her husband Tom in their flower growing business for 40 years. After retirement, they spent more time with family anat San Fernando Valley Holiness Church.

Akimasa Terry Futami, 85, on March 18. The long-serving manager of the West L.A. branch of Union Bank in the Sawtelle District, a community that was very dear to him.

Alvin Hagino, 63, on Nov. 14. Devoted to family, friends and the many basketball players he coached, he was honored in 2018 by Yonsei Basketball Association for his community service to Orange Coast Optimists.

Hisao Hamanaka, 87, on April 25. Advisor and past president to Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

Roy Yoshihiko Higa, 91, on May 23. He worked as a gardener until receiving his degrees in electrical engineering at USC, and worked the remainder of his career at Hughes Aircraft Co. on various projects, including the Man on the Moon project.

Glen Hirami on Dec. 11. An accountant, an instructor with Yuujou Daiko, and co-chairperson of entertainment for the Tournament of Roses.

Etsuo Hongo

Etsuo Hongo, 70, on Oct. 28. He studied taiko in Japan, the U.S. and South America and established Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko in 1977. He also founded L.A. MugeN Taiko, Venice Koshin Taiko, L.A. Taiko Okida Gumi, and El Marino Rainbow Taiko for elementary school students.

Samon Horii, 103, on July 12. He developed his green thumb on the family farm in Dinuba. After serving with the MIS in the Philippines, he continued cultivating his passion by starting a local gardening business and moving to El Monte.

Koichi Hosokawa, 70, on June 11. He started his career in accounting at Coopers & Lybrand, earned his CPA, worked at ACME General and Furon, and became CFO at Kingston Technology.

Albert Toshio Ibaraki on June 8. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War, graduated from USC and spent his entire banking career with Sumitomo Bank of California, retiring in 1995.

Stephanie Naomi Ige, 59, on March 9. She was proudly employed by the L.A. County Fire Department for 39 years.

Tazuko Inui, 84, on June 19. She taught Japanese at several Orange County community colleges, Kyodo Japanese School and Long Beach Japanese School, where she was the volunteer head teacher. She continued teaching up until 11 days prior to her passing.

Kazuko Iseri, 92, on March 12. While raising four children, she worked at Singeer Corporation, now Eaton, as an electronics assembler for over 30 years.

Stanley Masazumi Kadoi, 89, on May 31. A Hiroshima survivor, he was a founding member of the Midwest Kendo Federation and a 4th-dan kendo sensei of Chicago Kendo Dojo.

Hitoshi Harry Kajihara

Hitoshi Harry Kajihara, 91, on Dec. 3. He served as Ventura County JACL president, Pacific Southwest District redress chair, and national fundraising chair for JACL’s lobbying arm, the Legislative Education Committee. As JACL national president, he attended the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Florence Misako Kajikawa, 87, on Jan. 11. She was president of the Gardena Buddhist Church Fujinkai and performed professionally in the Akasuki Band.

Victor Masaru Kambe, 100, on Oct. 21. A former Minidoka incarceree, he was an award-winning distributor of Kirby Vacuum Cleaners for many decades. Devoted to exercise and a healthy diet, he reached his final goal of seeing out his centennial birthday.

K. Connie Kang

Shoko Kaneshiro, 92, on Oct. 18. She was among the founding members of the West L.A. Holiness Church and served as their first pianist. She was also a long-time volunteer at the Japanese Community Senior Pioneer Center in Little Tokyo.

Connie Kang, 76, in August. Believed to be the first Korean woman reporter in the U.S., she worked for The Los Angeles Times from 1992 to 2008, covering Asian communities. She also wrote for Koreatown Weekly.

Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Hiroshi Kashiwagi, 96, on Oct. 29. A poet, playwright and actor, he was known as the poet laureate of Tule Lake, where he was incarcerated during WWII. His plays include “The Betrayed”; his books include “Swimming in the American”; his film credits include “Hito Hata.”

Theodore “Ted” Kishiyama, 64, on Sept. 27. He graduated with honors from Occidental College and went on to become a qualifier for the Summer Olympics in skeet shooting.

Harry Koike on March 10. He operated Koike Landscaping, an award-winning and successful landscape contractor business, for over 45 years.

Frances Ayako Kurihara, 98, on March 11. She managed and owned hotels in Los Angeles. She was an avid sports fan and was also quite a poker player.

Mary Kusuda, 95, on Aug. 26. She joined her husband Mike and his siblings in owing and operating the Garden Grove Nursery & Flower Shop, and enjoyed the fellowship at Wintersburg Presbyterian Church.

C.Y. Lee

C.Y. Lee, 102, on Nov. 8, 2018. His novel “The Flower Drum Song” became a best-seller and the basis of a popular stage musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein (1958, revival in 2002) and an Oscar-nominated film. His family did not make his death public until 2019.

Alice Emiko (Kawamura) Linn, 94, on July 7. After internment in Poston, she received her nursing license in Chicago in 1946 and continued her nursing career in Los Angeles for 55 years.

Yet Lock, 83, on Sept. 7. former executive vice president of City News Service in Los Angeles, where he worked for 40 years, and a driving force in the formation of the Asian American Journalists Association.

Sumio Madokoro on Feb. 27. He was a long-time employee of Ida Co. market in Little Tokyo and Granada Market in the Sawtelle District.

Greg Marutani, 72, on Nov. 27. The longtime chair of JACL’s National Education Committee, he trained hundreds of teachers on how to utilize the story of JA incarceration to teach about civil rights. He was also a leader in San Francisco Japantown.

Dean Matsubayashi

Bessie Masuda, 89, on Feb. 14. She managed the office of a wholesale diamond dealer in San Francisco for 35 years and was a gifted jazz singer, an award-winning painter and a champion tennis player.

Dean Hojo Matsubayashi, 49, on Sept. 4. Long-time staff member of the Little Tokyo Service Center and executive director since 2012. Under his leadership, LTSC developed over 1,000 units of housing for those in need and provided social services and child development programs to thousands of seniors, children and families.

Madame Sosei Matsumoto

Madame Sosei Matsumoto, 103, on Feb. 21. A member of the Urasenke School, she devoted seven decades to teaching the discipline of chanoyu. and helped to establish tea ceremony in the U.S. after WWII. In 1994, she was recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow by President Clinton.

Dr. Koichi Mera, 86, on Dec. 17. He worked at The World Bank, taught at Tsukuba University and University of Southern California, authored numerous books and was a leader in the Japanese community in Los Angeles and Princeton.

Peggy Mikuni

Fumiko Kouka Mikami, 106, on July 3. A talented and respected Ikenobo ikebana instructor, she received a Kunsho, the Order of the Precious Crown, Ripple, in 1992 from the emperor of Japan.

Florence Tomiko Mikawa, 76, on March 9. She was employed by LAUSD for 39 years and was a world traveler.

Peggy Mikuni, 90, on Aug. 7. Owner and president of Yamato Travel Bureau for over 60 years, she arranged tour groups to travel internationally, specializing in Japan. She was one of the first women and possibly the first Sansei to own a business in Little Tokyo.

Wat Misaka

Wat Misaka, 95, on Nov. 21. He on the University of Utah’s basketball championship teams in 1944 (NCAA) and 1947 (NIT), served in the MIS in 1944, and was drafted by the New York Knickerbockers in 1947, becoming the first player of color in the NBA. He was featured in the 2009 documentary “Transforming: The Wat Misaka Story.”

Akiko Miyamoto, 90, on May 22. While at USC, where she graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 1951, she was a “founding mother” of Sigma Phi Omega, USC”s oldest Asian American sorority. She worked as a pharmacist for over 40 years in San Marino, Chicago and Monterey Park.

Tomiko Inouye Mizokami, 100, on March 5. She and her husband Roy owned and operated an insurance agency, and she was a deacon, interpreter and office manager at L.A. Gedatsu Church.

Joe Haruo Mizutani, 97, on Feb. 8. From 1947 to 1983, he was the third-generation owner of Mizutani Grocery Store, where he held the popular Tuesday and Saturday jackpot drawing.

Hatsuye “Hatsy” Murakami, 98, on May 8. Her family grew strawberries in Orange County from the early 1950s to 1993, and she sold the strawberries from a roadside stand, first in Garden Grove and later in Anaheim.

Momoko Murakami, 88, on Nov. 9. She was a consummate bibliographer with a long career at the UCLA School of Law and later for USC. She volunteered at the JACCC Library until its closure and wrote a column, “Moments with Momo,” for Kamai Forum.

Masao Nagai, 83, on March 25. An active member and president of the Japanese Landscape Gardeners Association.

Rev. Dr. Paul Nagano

Rev. Dr. Paul Nagano, 98, on April 13. He began the Los Angeles Baptist Church (Evergreen) in 1945 and was the first executive minister of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society. He was minister-at-large for Northern California Japanese Protestant Churches and director of Council for Pacific Asian Theology.

Hideko Nakajima, 85, on July 15. She enjoyed a lifelong career in the performing arts in Japan and the U.S. She pursued a teaching career in shamisen in Northern California and also taught enka and minyo.

Dennis T. Nakamura, 75, on Jan. 19. He worked hard his entire professional life in the accounting field, eventually becoming a CPA and opening his own business that his son, Derek, continues to run.

Glenn Mitsuru Nakamura, 73, on Oct. 26. He devoted his life to his family, friends, and youth sports in the South Bay community.

Marjory Sachiko Nakamura, 75, on Nov. 13. She began her adult life as a beautician, then found her true passion and talent in arts and crafting, which she did for family, friends, and craft fairs.

Tsuyako (Hirai) Nakamura, 87, on Jan. 13. She worked with her husband James to establish a flourishing farming business that her son, Gary, and grandson, Jeff, continue to run.

Joyce Miyeko Morinaka Nakano, 74, on May 20. She became a substitute teacher in the El Rancho Unified School District, Pico Rivera, then became a full-time teacher at Macy Intermediate, Montebello, where she taught for 32 years until she retired in 2006.

Patricia Kikuno Namba, 98, on Sept. 2. A former incarceree at Poston, where she taught sewing, she started a home dressmaking business in Sacramento after the war and worked many years at the UC Davis Medical Center Emergency Room.

Esther Nishio

Esther Takei Nishio, 94, on Oct. 1. In 1944, she became a test case as the first Japanese American to return to the West Coast from camp (Amache) to attend school. She faced angry crowds as a student at Pasadena College but also received support from students, faculty and U.S. servicemen, and later visited other camps to recruit more students.

Henry Hatsuo Nishizu, 97, on Jan. 16. He left farming for a career in real estate development, acting as builder, manager and owner of several industrial, commercial, and residential projects over four decades.

Alice Noda, 93, on Aug. 9. She was a member of the Western Avenue, Victoria and Nikkei women’s golf clubs, and worked for several years as a hair stylist and then as an administrator for L.A. County Harbor General Hospital.

Mary Nomoto, 93, on Oct. 13. She met her husband Mitsugi at Poston. They settled in L.A., became hairdressers and ran their own beauty salon.

Herbert Mitsuru Okamoto, 88, on Dec. 8, 2018. He enjoyed a distinguished career with the Internal Revenue Service. In retirement, he consulted for his favorite team, the L.A. Lakers.

Frank Omatsu

Frank Omatsu, 95, on Dec. 9. He was the last surviving original co-founder of Keiro, served as a senior VP of Sumitomo Bank, was a docent and supporter of the Japanese American National Museum, and played a role in bringing the Space Shuttle Challenger Monument to Little Tokyo.

Masako Ota, 89, on Jan. 6. A devoted Jodo Shinshu Buddhist. She served proudly as a member, five-time president, advisor and senior advisor of the Gardena Buddhist Women’s Association.

Tsutomu Ota, 72, on April 17. Owner of Modern Marketing, a business that he and his wife Marina continued as Modern Food Market (1946-1996) in Little Tokyo.

Toku Phillips, 78, on Dec. 3. A beloved member of the Little Tokyo community and a member of the Fujima Kansuma Kai dance school.

Walter Quan, 90, on Feb. 15. An entrepreneur and restaurant owner who ran several businesses, including Kowloon Kitchen in La Habra (1962-1974) and Quan’s Restaurant in Orange (1975-1996).

Shoji Sadao

Shoji Sadao, 92, on Nov. 3. An architect and author, he is best known for his work and collaborations with Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi. He served as founding executive director of the Noguchi Museum (1989-2003) and was a lifetime trustee.

Dr. Bo Tsuyoshi Sakaguchi, 93, on April 3. A longtime resident of San Fernando Valley, he came from a prominent family where four of seven siblings were dentists or doctors, including Dr. Mary Oda.

Elgin Sakata, 83, on Sept. 9. After growing and harvesting vegetables for Lee Wong S representative of the Kanya Sanjo V Kabuki Dance Company, she entertained audiences in Little Tokyo over the years as a Nisei Week ondo and parade choreographer, including the 2019 festival.

Madame Kangiku Sanjo

Madame Kangiku Sanjo (June Ito), 79, on April 28. The artistic director and official representative of the Kanya Sanjo V Kabuki Dance Company, she entertained audiences in Little Tokyo over the years as a Nisei Week parade and ondo choreographer, including the 2019 festival.

Yasuko Sawano, 95, on May 1. She was a piano teacher for many years and the wife of the late Kiyoshi Sawano, principal designer of the JACCC in Los Angeles.

Ayako Linda Seu, on March 22. She used her bilingual skills at Mitsubishi and taught for 42 years in the LAUSD. She was a league bowler and an active member of Zen Nippon Airinkai.

Sumi Utsushigawa Shimatsu, 91, on Aug. 17. Much of her life is described in “The Train to Crystal City “ by Jan Jarboe Russell. After the war she helped form the Crystal City Association and initiated the Crystal City Chatter newsletter. She later became a doctor of chiropractics.

Yoshimi Mike Shiraki, 87, on Nov. 15. He served as a linguist for the Army in Korea in the 1950s and worked for 39 years as an engineer at McDonnell Douglas in the spacecraft division.

Thomas Mitsuji Sunada, 86, on Jan. 6. In 1991 he retired from a long and successful career as a supervisor of student body finances for LAUSD.

David Kiyoshi Sunahara on Oct. 27. An enthusiast of music and technology, he enjoyed 40 years at Northrop Grumman before retiring in 2017 as a knowledgeable and passionate electrical technician.

Raymond Tadakuma, 93, on May 16. Long-time former owner/manager of Faith Plating Co. in Hollywood.

Haruko Rose Tademaru, 100, on April 22. She was featured in the book “Nisei Voices,” which highlighted the first JA valedictorians of California public schools. After the war, she and her husband Harry relocated to Chicago, where she was active at Midwest Buddhist Temple.

Lydia Takeshita

Lydia Takeshita, 92, on April 23. Founder of LA Artcore Gallery and executive director for 40 years, she created LA Artcore’s International Exchange Program. She was previously a professor of art at Cal State Los Angeles for 34 years.

Robert Hideo Takeuchi, 82, on June 17. He dedicated four decades to the practice of law, devoted mainly to businesses and investors from Japan into the U.S. He was a senior partner at Kindel & Anderson and co-authored “Setting Up Enterprises in the USA.”

Isao Isago Tanaka, 93, on Oct. 27. A Bay Area photographer and photography instructor, he documented historical events, such as the American Indian Movement occupation of Alcatraz and activism in the Asian American community, for newspapers, books and exhibits.

Natsuko June Teragawa, 98, on July 5. She used her bilingual skills to assist the American occupation forces in Japan, worked for several years at Francis Blend and Alexandria Avenue elementary schools, and was a longtime volunteer at JANM.

Mary Nobuko Teraoka, 96, on Aug. 12. A dedicated member of Buddhist Church of Fowler, she served two terms as president of Fowler’s Buddhist Women’s Association, and also co-founded Fowler’s Ballroom Dance Group.

Mary U. Toma, 91, on July 21. She was a med tech at Children’s Hospital L.A. for decades, sang in the choir at Centenary UMC, and volunteered for PTA/PTSA, serving as president at the schools her children attended.

Kazuye Tsuboi, 94, on Nov. 12. She successfully ran the family business, Asia Travel Bureau in Little Tokyo, for over 60 years and traveled the world with her husband John. After retirement, she volunteered with Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California and Okayama Kenjin Kai.

Percy Hifumi Tsukamoto, 96, on March 11. He was a foreman at the Crown Coach Corporation in Los Angeles, which built school buses and fire trucks, for 35 years.

Medori Ned Tsuma, 97, on Feb. 3. He worked hard at his auto repair garage in Silver Lake for 46 years, retiring at age 84.

Gregory Uematsu, DDS, 72, on Sept. 12. A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Dentistry at age 23, he enjoyed a successful 36-year career as a dentist and retired from his practice in Orange in 2007.

Hank Umemoto

Hank Umemoto, 91, on Dec. 22. He frequently shared his experiences as an incarceree at Manzanar and published a memoir, “Manzanar to Mount Whitney: The Life and Times of a Lost Hiker.”

Lee Wesley, 78, on Nov. 28. At Wesley-Jessen, the Chicago company co-founded by his father, he helped develop a computerized method of fitting contact lenses and the company’s first soft lens. Born Newton Lee Uyesugi, he was incarcerated with his family in Minidoka, Idaho during WWII.

Helen “Ha-chan” Hatsune Yamane, 82, on April 2. She worked as an executive secretary for Ricoh in San Jose and Ralph M. Parsons in Pasadena. After retirement, she was an active member of Montebello Plymouth Congregational Church and an avid gardener at YMCA Community Garden.

Etsuko Yamashita, 93, on July 15. She was a plaintiff in a federal court case that resulted in 6,000 Kibei Nisei being allowed to return from Japan to the U.S. as American citizens. She volunteered at Gardena Buddhist Church and taught Japanese language and preschool classes.

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