AN ELEGANT LADY
Mrs. Hatsuyo Mori, haiku poet, entrepreneur, detainee during World War II in American Relocation camps, died this week at the age of 92.
Her death was confirmed by Belmont Village Assisted Living, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, where she resided for the past 3 years.
She is survived by her five (5) children all residents of California: Martha Takako of Huntington Beach, Naomi Kobayashi (Ronald M. Kobayashi, MD) of La Jolla, Doris Yoko (Thomas A. Festa) of Manhattan Beach, Katherine Kaoru (Michael Dowers) of San Mateo, James Shigeki Mori and his partner David C. Hale of San Francisco; and 2 grandchildren: Anne Mori Kobayashi of New York City, and Caroline Ando Kobayashi (Matthew Sparks) of San Diego.
Hatsuyo Ando was born on January 27, 1920, in California’s Imperial Valley. The eldest of 4 children, both she and her sister, Toshiko (Nagaki), then 7 and 4 years old respectively, returned to their ancestral home in a small village located in the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. They would not see their parents for the next ten years of their lives as their parents sought their livelihood as fruit growers in the midst of the California desert.
At 17, Hatsuyo was reunited with her parents only to have her father pass shortly thereafter, and the next year, it was arranged that she would marry Tetsuo Mori, then a foreman of a nursery in Los Angeles County. They started growing their family, and one month following the birth of their second daughter, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the naval forces of Imperial Japan. Four months later, the entire Mori family was interned to a concentration camp in the desert surroundings of Gila, Arizona.
The Moris were released following the Japanese surrender and returned to Los Angeles, eventually settling in the City of Torrance to purchase and operate a large wholesale nursery. There, Hatsuyo toiled by day planting flowers, managing employees, and at night, tended to the care of her 5 children. Throughout this challenging schedule of work and family, she found personal solace in writing haiku, a form of Japanese poetry structured within 17 total syllables patterned upon 5‑7‑5.
After the death of her husband in 1977, she reinvented herself and after one year of grieving, she still felt young, attractive and she clearly wanted to live her life with a certain brio. She continued her haiku writing in earnest, composing (at times under pseudonyms) thousands of poems over the next few years, many appearing in the Japanese language newspaper, the Rafu Shimpo, where she eventually acted as a consultant. Her haiku writing resulted in the publication of her initial collection, Jacaranda, appearing first in Japanese, then republished in an English translated version. The companion piece Petals of Jacaranda followed. Many of her haiku appear in world renowned haiku publications, and many more are memorialized in ceramic permanently displayed at the Haiku Kyoshi Memorial Museum in Ashiya, an elegant seaside village near Kobe, Japan.
She also contributed to various national and local Democratic Party progressive and liberal causes and political campaigns, and to various philanthropic groups especially those protecting the environment and in the furtherance of animal rights. To her astonishment one mid week day, her front door bell rang, and, escorted by a Torrance City Councilwoman, Hope Witkowski, a close friend whose campaign she had financially supported, there stood the House of Representative for California’s 36th District Congresswoman, Jane Harman. Wearing her simple house dress and her housewife’s kitchen apron, Hatsuyo invited both women inside her simple but elegant home for tea and snacks. She found her appearance an embarrassment, but was extremely proud that an individual of such stature and importance would simply “drop by” unannounced. She later found the entire episode quite amusing.
Years later she was invited to the opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum which she attended in Little Rock, Arkansas.
After the 1977 sale of Three Star Nursery, she and Tetsuo invested wisely in the Orange County industrial real estate market, exchanging upward to more valuable properties yielding income she could have never imagined when viewed through the optics of the rice paddies of the small family farm she worked in as a child.
In later years, she traveled throughout the world extensively, but found the Midnight Sun of Greenland and the Great Migration of wild animals on Africa’s Serengeti Plain her most memorable destinations.
Services will be held at the Gardena Buddhist Church on Thursday, July 26, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. with interment at Green Hills Memorial Park, in Rancho Palos Verdes.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be extended to the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90012.