Venice Japanese Community Center is a thriving center of activity for the Japanese American community and it’s thanks to efforts of volunteers like the late Jim Minoru Akioka, who passed away on Aug. 2 at the age of 89.
Akioka served as facilities manager at VJCC for decades starting in 1976, until his retirement in 2013. He also led the VJCC as president and served on the center’s board of directors.
Patty Kirio, Akioka’s niece, said: “As the facilities manager, he was responsible for so many things … maintaining the VJCC, opening and closing the rooms and gym, scheduling and accommodating the over 38 clubs and classes, accommodating requests to hold special events from various people and other community organizations, just to name a few things he did.”
Akioka was born on June 5, 1930 in Fresno, where his family had a fruit farm. During World War II, the family was sent first to the Fresno Assembly Center, then to the War Relocation Authority’s Jerome camp in Arkansas. The family was eventually settled in Gila River, Canal Camp, in Arizona.
Akioka was drafted in June 1950 and served during the Korean War, attaining the rank of sergeant, first class. He married June Nakagiri on Feb. 9, 1958, and the couple had two children, Gary and Linda. Nakagiri worked at McDonnell Douglas and later was employed by TRW as an engineer.
He became active in the Venice Japanese American community in 1971 when his son started playing basketball. He was the basketball commissioner for Crescent Bay Optimist (CBO), serving as a liaison between CBO and VJCC.
Speaking to the VJCC newsletter, Akioka said he found working for the center rewarding and expressed gratitude to everyone who helped to keep the center running.
A funeral service was held on Aug. 17 at the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. Akioka is survived by his wife, June Akioka; children, Gary and Linda Akioka; siblings, Sam (Aiko) and Ken Akioka; many nieces, nephews and other relatives.