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.