On the Job

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Tomo Mizusawa answers the phone at Tustin Area Senior Center, where she works as a recreation leader. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

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By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF

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TUSTIN — Tomo Mizusawa sees no reason to slow down. At 90 years old, she is the City of Tustin’s oldest employee, working 20 hours a week at the Tustin Area Senior Center in Orange County.

“I do everything. I help at the reception desk and with the travel club that goes on all these different trips,” said Mizusawa.

The Nisei, who grew up in Tustin, was hired when she was 81 years old and has been the city’s oldest employee ever since. Today she is an invaluable member of the senior center, which is open seven days a week and provides services for 800 senior citizens daily.

Mizusawa poses with Vanessa Osborn, recreation coordinator. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

“She’s like the star of the senior center,” said Vanessa Osborn, recreation coordinator for the senior center. “When she isn’t here, everyone asks, ‘Where is Tomo?’ ”

“Tomo can navigate the computer, she can answer just about any question and makes sound judgment,” Osborn said.

Mizusawa has been working since she was a girl, helping on the family farm in Tustin prior to World War II. She graduated from Tustin Union High School in 1939, attending Santa Ana College until the start of World War II. During the war, her parents Tsugi and Zenjiro Kitasaki, and siblings, Tomi, Chiyo, Yuki and Utaro were interned in Poston, Ariz.

In camp she met Fred Mizusawa and the couple married in a small ceremony. When the war ended, they returned to Garden Grove, where they began farming, and Mizusawa raised three sons, Steve, Ron and Robert.

Her family was in on a surprise 90th birthday party held at the senior center for Mizusawa last month.

“They told me we were going out to lunch,” Mizusawa explained.

Instead, Mizusawa was treated to balloons, cake and a large banner, celebrating her 90th year.

“It inspires all the younger people about being able to live a successful life as a senior. And continue to educate one’s mind,” Osborn said. “I say she’s the boss of the senior center because she knows it all, she’s such a wise person.”

Tustin’s oldest worker is also its most dedicated. Mizusawa said she has no intention to retire anytime soon.

“I love it here. We have some wonderful people working here,” Mizusawa said.

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  1. Shinji Sagae on

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