Sumi Utsushigawa Shimatsu
August 14, 1928 – August 17, 2019
In her 91 years, Sumi had many unique life experiences that shaped and strengthened her character, outlook, spiritual beliefs, and philosophy. She faced many challenges and came to realize the importance of her inner strength and faith, as well as the value of love and support from family and friends.
Much of Sumi’s life is described in a book, The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sumi’s life changed when her father, a photographer, was arrested by the FBI, leaving Sumi and her mother to pack only what they could carry and go: first to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming and then to Crystal City Family Internment Camp in Texas (to be reunited with her father).
Towards the end of the war, the family was eventually repatriated to Japan where they were reunited with Sumi’s 2 stranded sisters. However, homesick for the U.S., Sumi traveled back to the U.S. on her own at the age of 17 and worked as a school girl while she completed high school.
Those wartime years and her mother’s encouragement to make the best of a bad situation forged in Sumi a more positive, outgoing personality. The Crystal City Internment Camp is where she found life-long friends and had a short time to flourish as a young teen despite the harsh climate and limitations of living as a prisoner behind barbed wire.
She worked to keep this unique sense of community alive by helping to found the Crystal City Association after the war. Sumi initiated a newsletter, the Crystal City Chatter as a means of keeping members apprised of events and news, later adding nutrition, health tips, and fun facts. She enjoyed the camaraderie of her friends when they worked on projects, had lunches, picnics, or trips to Las Vegas. In 1979, they went on a pilgrimage to Crystal City.
Sumi was married to Kiyoo Shimatsu and had 6 children together. He encouraged her to go back to school to get a degree in Chiropractics but he passed away not too long after she graduated. Sumi’s career as a doctor of chiropractic gave her great satisfaction and an independence she had never before envisioned for herself.
She had many interests, talents and skills. Her love of animals led to an odd collection of pets over her life. Her artistic talent led to a full scholarship offer which she declined, but she continued sketching and painting throughout her life. She lovingly cultivated her gardens which had fruit trees, redwoods, and bamboo, etc. Sumi practiced tai chi and qi gong, and traveled to China with her practice group to learn qi gong with a master. She also traveled to Japan with a Buddhist bishop who was a mentor and guiding figure in her life.
Sumi is survived by her 6 children, 9 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. She will be sorely missed for her love of life and family, generosity, intuitive guidance, healing skills, and her determination to make the best of all situations.