A True Game Changer

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This late-1970s photo provided by the Nisei Athletic Union shows Glen Yamashita, wearing number 8, with his Orange County teammates.

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor

The evening of Dec. 6 was, by all accounts, a typical day for Glen Yamashita. Having navigated his way home through the snarl of traffic from his job at Mitsubishi in Irvine, the Huntington Beach resident changed into his running gear for the jog he took several times a week.

After not hearing him leave nor return home for nearly two hours, his wife, Noel Kinoshita, went upstairs to find tragedy waiting.

Yamashita, 55, lay pale and cold on the bedroom floor, the victim of what an autopsy later showed was a fatal heart attack.

“Glen was in such good shape. We still can’t believe it,” said Mark Nakakihara, who played basketball and was a supporter of youth sports with Yamashita.

“We coached together and played in leagues for 10 years or so,” Nakakihara said in a phone call to the Rafu on Tuesday. “He was always there to lend a hand and to give his time.”

Yamashita, third from right, at a recent Dove Canyon golf tournament, with Bill Endo, left, James Miyake and Mark Shigemasa.

Born in Whittier, Yamashita graduated from Monte Vista High School and attended Cal State Fullerton, all the while staying active, especially on the basketball court. He continued to play as an adult, while nurturing the skills and dreams of the young people in his community, in organizations such as Suburban Optimists and VFW within the Southeast Youth Organization.

He was also a coach and player in the Nisei Athletic Union and Orange Coast Sports Association.

“I still played basketball with him every Sunday, and he played in the men’s league on Thursdays,” said Mikey Kinoshita, Yamashita’s stepson. Kinoshita and his  younger sister, Alyssa, both participated in the Yonsei program, through which young Japanese American players travel to Japan to play ball and gain understanding and appreciation of their shared cultural heritage.

When Mikey went on the trip in 2003, and Alyssa in 2007, Yamashita pushed all other responsibilities aside, took time from work and traveled across the Pacific with them.

“He was always there for my sister and me, and for his daughter, Ashley,” said Kinoshita, who was a star player during his years at Huntington Beach High School.

Kinoshita added that his stepfather was not taking any regular medications and that there were never any signs of health problems, describing how his active lifestyle included snowboarding last year.

Kinoshita has taken leave from his work at the J. Morey Company this week to be available for the comfort of his mother. She and Yamashita were married in 2003.

“She’s holding up well,” Kinoshita said. “We’re just keeping each other company right now, and there has been a lot of support from friends and family.”

Like many who knew Yamashita, Nakakihara was at a loss for words.

“It’s just too close to home,” he said. “Most of us don’t know what to say. You’re simply never prepared for this.”

Funeral services for Glen Yamashita will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, at Wintersburg Presbyterian Church in Santa Ana.

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