Obituary: Mayemura, 97; Gold Star Mother


Mary Jane Mayemura salutes at last year's Memorial Day ceremony at the Japanese American War Memorial Court at JACCC Plaza. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By Gwen Muranaka

Rafu English Editor

She never forgot the son who died on a battlefield in Korea. Mary Jane Mayemura, the last Gold Star mother of the Korean War, passed away on March 8. She was 97. Every year, Mayemura would lay a flower beside Jimmie’s name at the Japanese Ameri­can War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo, leading a procession of floral tributes given to the honored war dead each Memorial Day.

“She looked forward to it and she was looking forward to this year,” said her daughter, Masako Tomota.

“She came to every single memorial service we had, we really appreciated that,” said Min Tonai of the

Japanese American Korean War Veterans. “Our mothers, they didn’t have to suffer what she went through. She lost her son in a war. He died fighting for his country.”

Gold Star Mothers, formed shortly after World War I, is the distinction given to mothers of a child killed in action. Mayemura, who also had four daughters, lost her only son Jimmie when he was killed on Nov. 4, 1951.

Family friend Kats Nakatani attend­ed Jimmie’s one-year memorial service at Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in 1952 and in later years would pick her up to attend the Memorial Day services. During World War II, he lived in the same block as the Mayemuras in the Rohwer concentration camp. He remembered that Mary Jane had asked him and his friends to wear their uniforms to the memorial service.

“He was a good son. Before he left for Korea, he helped to sell produce. She told me he even bought a whole new set of truck tires, so they wouldn’t have trouble while he was gone. She raised a nice son,” Nakatani said.

Tomota recalled that her mother, a Nisei born in Concord, Calif., worked as a seamstress and also worked on a flower farm and nursery. Despite their difficult circumstances, Mayemura always made sure she had her clothes pressed and her hair done at the beauty shop.

“We were so poor, but we always had a beautiful new dress for the holidays,” Tomota said. “She was so strong.”

Mayemura is survived by her daughters, Masako Tomota, Kay (Ron) Wilinski and Ruth Okimura; brothers, Ben Horiguchi and Tad Horiguchi; 12 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren; three nephews and one niece; great niece and six great nephews and also, survived by other relatives.



  1. Karrie Wilinski on

    We will miss you, Grandma. We are so fortunate and blessed to have you as our Grandma and Kaikea was the proudest boy to attend the memorial services every year with his VIP great-grandma. We will always remember this past memorial service most of all….sharing a pinkberry and sitting with your grandsons in the sun in Jtown. You were so happy and proud that day and we are the thankful ones being able to share that special day with you. We love you and miss you. God Bless you and you will always be in our thoughts.

  2. Marsha Terumi Lee on

    I’ll miss you Grandma. I’ll never forget – you always called me Terumichan.

  3. CSM Jeff Mellinger on

    On this 2010 Memorial Day weekend, just wanted you to know that SGT Mayemura is still honored and remembered, and that we think of him and pray for the family. May his mother and family have some peace knowing that his legacy lives on.

  4. Mrs. Mayemura, I am sorry for not visiting you more often, so please for give me.
    Jimmy was a great young man and a great soldier; who joining the elite Wolf Hound Raiders. And a KIA as a Wolf Hound Raider……… a brave soldier. For I am an old man now living with a Survivor’s Guilt. Katsuya

  5. Grandma, you are always in my heart. I miss you so much.
    The days I would visit you at Little Tokyo Towers and waving to you from the parking lot and you’re waving to me from your balcony. I was sad to have to leave you.
    Thankfully we were able to celebrate these memorial services with you. I know it made you happy to have all of us come be with you.
    Love you Grandma… you’re the bravest woman I know.

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