Bay Area Community Leader Laura Takeuchi Dies at 58

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Laura Takeuchi, known for her work with seniors in the Bay Area Japanese American community, died peacefully on Aug. 1 after a short but courageous battle with cancer. She was 58.

“Her gentle spirit and passionate work ethic touched so many lives via the numerous non-profit organizations she worked and volunteered with,” her family said in a statement.

Laura Takeuchi (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto)

Those organizations include Berkeley-based Japanese American Services of the East Bay (now known as J-Sei), where she served as executive director; API Legal Outreach (formerly Nihonmachi Legal Outreach); Alameda County Meals on Wheels; Kokoro Assisted Living in San Francisco; Diablo JA Club in Concord; and Berkeley JACL.

“Laura Takeuchi was a big-hearted community person, a friend, my co-coordinator of the monthly Christian Theological Forums (although I think she was Buddhist!), a beautiful human being and too young to be taken by cancer,” said Rev. John Oda, pastor of Lake Park United Methodist Church in Oakland and former pastor of Pine United Methodist Church in San Francisco.

Anna Sawamura, program director at Kimochi Inc. in San Francisco, noted that Takeuchi was on the Kimochi staff from the early 1980s and served as finance director for many years.

“Although she was no longer a Kimochi employee, she helped volunteer for us at many events, most notably our golf tournament,” Sawamura said.

Takeuchi volunteered countless hours to such annual events as the Cherry Blossom Festival’s Senior Appreciation Brunch in San Francisco, the Northern California Japanese American Seniors Centers’ Shinnen Kai (New Year’s party), and the Diablo Japanese American Summer Festival in Concord. She was also involved in Kimochi’s Silver Bells Arts & Craft Faire and the Japanese American Religious Federation’s Curry Cook-off.

Born in San Francisco on Jan. 29, 1955 to the late Shoichi and Agnes Takeuchi, she was raised in Walnut Creek, where she was a talented competitive swimmer and skier. She graduated from Ygnacio Valley High School and UC Berkeley. More recently, in her limited free time, she enjoyed teaching, creative arts, working with seniors and youth, and traveling.

She is survived by her life partner of three decades, Stephen Higashi of Walnut Creek, and her aunts, cousins and extended family.

A “Celebration of Life” memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 3 p.m. at the Diablo JA Club facilities at 3165 Treat Blvd., Concord. The family requests that flowers be omitted.

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