James O. Ito was born on August 10, 1914 in Riverside, California to Chotaro Ito and Kikuno Yoshise Ito. He passed away on October 17, 2012 in Laguna Hills, California at the age of 98.
Jim attended many different schools around Southern California, however, he often expressed his appreciation for the teachers at Glendale High who prepared him for the rigors at UC Berkeley. Upon graduating with honors in 1941, Jim joined brothers David and Bill and sister Dorothy to start the Red Ruby Farm in the San Gabriel Valley. Upon the United States’ entry into World War II, the Ito family, being of Japanese ancestry, was first incarcerated at the Pomona Fairgrounds temporary detention center and then at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Given his education and experience in large scale farming, Jim became the second in command in the effort to grow food and raise livestock to support the more than ten thousand internees. These efforts influence agriculture to this day along the Shoshone River. One positive aspect of the internment came when as a camp administrator he was called upon to process the application of Toshiko Nagamori to leave the camp at Heart Mountain to attend a Methodist college in Missouri. Jim and Toshi were married July 14, 1945 and celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary this past July.
Volunteering for military duty, based upon his education and Japanese language skills, Jim became a member of the Military Intelligence Service – MIS. His service included postings in Korea at the War’s end. In February of this year Jim was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his military service.
Upon returning to Los Angeles Jim started his own vending machine business but soon discovered the reaches of organized crime. He sold the business and attended Cal State LA and Cal State Northridge to earn his teaching credential. He taught math, agriculture and floriculture at Millikan Junior High School in Sherman Oaks and Perry Junior High School in Gardena during a multi award winning 25 year career with the LAUSD. Jim later returned for three years to teach in an adult education program.
In his retirement Jim was an active member of the Laguna Woods community who often pondered how he had ever found time to go to work. His dedication to his gardens was legendary. Jim served as a Third Mutual director and a Golden Rain Foundation director for the retirement community of Leisure World and was honored as the Leisure Worlder of the Month in 1990.
Jim is survived by his wife Toshi, daughter Chrislyn Kodama (a retired teacher) of Corona, son Lance Ito (Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court) of Pasadena and grandchildren Kevin Kodama of Pullman, Washington and Sherri Densmore of Gilbert, Arizona.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday October 27th at 11 a.m. at the United Methodist Church, 24442 Moulton Parkway, Laguna Woods 92637. In lieu of flowers the family would appreciate donations to South County Outreach, www.sco-oc.org.
The family wishes to express their thanks to Lindsay and Ruth at Vitas Hospice Care and to Edna and all the staff at OC Kaigo Homes.
www.fukuimortuary.com (213) 626-041