Elsie Hanako Chung
Elsie Hanako Chung, loving mother and grandmother, died peacefully on Saturday, November 14, 2020 in Redondo Beach, California. She was 88 years old.
A sister to 13 siblings, Elsie was born in Watsonville, California to Mitsuzo and Matsuye Uyeda. At the age of 10, she and her family were interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah for the duration of World War II. Following her graduation from San Francisco’s Lowell High School, Elsie worked as an Executive Assistant for a host of storied C.E.O.s for nearly 40 years.
In 1958, Elsie married Edward Chung, with whom she raised two children. Edward’s untimely death from cancer in 1977 inspired Elsie to help found the Nisei Widowed Group, which offered friendship and support to bereaved Japanese American women and men. It was through this organization that Elsie later met Tets Ihara, her longtime companion until his passing in 2017.
Known for her outgoing personality and firecracker wit, Elsie’s compassionate soul left an impression on everyone she encountered. Always giving back to the community and helping those in need, she volunteered at San Francisco’s Kimochi home in her retirement years. Along with her sister Juneko, she was also a fierce advocate for the Asian-Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ community, acting as a surrogate mother to those whose families rejected them.
In her free time, Elsie enjoyed knitting, dancing, and savoring new and eclectic cuisines. She possessed an innate talent and curiosity for languages; not content to be fluent in English, Japanese, French, and Spanish, she one day hoped to master Korean and Tagalog as well. She was also renowned for her poppy seed cake.
She is survived by her daughter Karen; son Richard; son-in-law Robert; granddaughter Jennifer; sisters Daisy and Juneko; and numerous nieces and nephews. No services will be held. In lieu of koden or flowers, the family suggests donations in Elsie’s memory to API Legal Outreach (www.apilegaloutreach.org), San Francisco Community Health Center [formerly API Wellness Center](sfcommunityhealth.org), or Kimochi, Inc. (www.kimochi-inc.org).