2019 Women of the Year Announced

This year’s luncheon event will be held at the Quiet Cannon, Rooms Crystal 1 and 3, 901 N. Via San Clemente, Montebello, on Sunday, May 5, at 12:30 pm.

• Linda Aratani was born in Boyle Heights in 1947 to George and Sakaye Aratani. Her older sister, Donna, was two years older and was born in Minneapolis while their father taught Japanese to military personnel at Fort Snelling. The family eventually moved to Montebello.

Aratani’s father was a businessman, and together with other associates, started American Commercial Incorporated, which launched a very successful dinnerware product called Mikasa. During this time, both of Aratani’s parents became involved in community service with their focus on supporting the Japanese community in Los Angeles. Her father eventually launched another successful product line called Kenwood Electronics. With the success of both products, her parents were able to pursue their long-life dream of philanthropy.

The family moved from Montebello to Hollywood in 1959. Aratani and her sister attended Le Conte Junior High and Hollywood High School, where Aratani volunteered for several organizations, including Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. She also began to develop a very strong interest in medicine through her physiology and biology classes. She became acquainted with rehabilitation — physical, occupational and speech therapy — and earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from San Jose State University.

In 1970, Aratani landed her first job at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, a nationally recognized rehabilitation center. In 1973, she married Stephen Yusa. They welcomed their first born, Jeff, in 1977, then Jann in 1979, and finally Joy in 1984. In 1992, Aratani left Rancho and took the position of rehab director at Bay Harbor Hospital and Rehab. In 1995, she started her own rehab company with a physical therapist and provided rehabilitation services at South Bay Keiro Nursing Home in Gardena.

It was during that time that Aratani became increasingly involved with the Aratani Foundation. She began to attend foundation meetings and community functions with her parents, Tets Murata, and their secretary, Betty Teves. Aratani noticed how dedicated the community was in ensuring that Japanese American culture continued to thrive for generations to come, which happens to be the mission statement of her family’s foundation.

Aratani retired from occupational therapy in 2013, the same year that her father passed away. Her mother continues to guide her in running the Aratani Foundation along with the help of Teves. Sadly, Murata passed away in December 2018. Aratani is grateful to her entire family for their support in ensuring that the important work of their family’s foundation continues.

• Elizabeth Doomey brightens up everywhere she goes with her beautiful smile. Her parents, Yone and Shigeo Frank Takimoto, surely must have felt joyful when she was born in the Manzanar concentration camp. After the war ended, the family of five moved into a Burbank trailer camp. Doomey grew up in San Fernando attending local schools. By 1959, the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center (SFVJACC) was built by the Issei and Nisei volunteers for the sake of the children.

Doomey comes from a family that believes in service. For example, her mother oversaw the San Fernando Women’s Club and her aunt Mabel Takimoto was a Woman of the Year. Doomey met her husband, John, when she was working at Gemco. They have been happily married for 43 years. Both work hard at the center to take care of anything that needs to be done.

Among her notable accomplishments was managing bond issues for Cardinal Stadium in Arizona and for Oregon. While at Bank of New York/Mello, Doomey learned American Sign Language to help two of her employees on the job.

Because of her leadership as president, the Meiji Club is the largest club in the SFVJACC, with 400 members. The health and welfare of seniors has been upmost in her mind. Currently, Doomey is on the SFVJACC Board of Directors, is the Coordinating Council secretary, and is a member of the Endowment Committee. She has also supported the Tuna Canyon Detention Station fundraisers. Due to her involvement with almost every club at the center, she is a one-woman welcoming committee.

Outside of the center, Doomey is involved with Centenary United Methodist Church and Valley Japanese Community Center in Sun Valley.

Doomey is proud of her two children. Her angel, Audrey Eiko, takes care of Bachan Yone’s daily needs and works at Costco too. Her son, Raymond, and his wife, Glenda, live in Torrance, where he is the chief financial officer. Her granddaughter, Kristi Fukunaga, attends Arizona State University and is majoring in education. Her other granddaughter, Rachel, is a senior at West High in Torrance and wants to attend the University of Hawaii.

In her spare time, Doomey enjoys playing golf and has monthly lunches with her golf buddies.

Doomey’s life epitomizes a life of service, giving to others, not herself.

• Norie Morita was born 1940 in Itsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. She studied architecture at Hutsukaichi High School and obtained the 2nd-Level Architectural License. She did design work at the Housing Department of Hiroshima Prefecture.

Morita came to the U.S. in 1970 based on her mother’s citizenship. She married her husband, who was a student from Hyogo, the following year. They have a daughter.

Morita and her husband started a business selling luxury items mainly to crew members of ships docked in Los Angeles Harbor. They even had a branch in Seattle at one time. In late 1993, after 22 years, they closed the business because Japan’s bubble economy was about to burst.

After her retirement from business, Morita started traveling extensively and writing essays in local magazines such as TV Fan. Her husband died of throat cancer in 2001. She became a member of the Okinawa Association based on Shingi Kuniyoshi’s recommendation. Soon, she became an overseas correspondent of the Okinawa Times and started contributing articles for the newspaper.

In 2016, Morita was appointed an Uchina Goodwill Ambassador by the governor of Okinawa and began promoting goodwill between Okinawa and the U.S. As a volunteer, she taught etegami at GIVIC church in Torrance. Etegami is a new literary genre invented by Kunio Koike, who promoted etegami with this motto: the more unskilled, the better. Etegami artists draw pictures of flowers, fruits or other objects with a few words on postcard-size paper. Etegami is very effective in reigniting friendship with someone who has been long forgotten. Morita has been teaching etegami monthly at the JA Pioneer Center since 2016.

Since 2017, Morita has been leading a senryu club called Tombo Senryu, which currently has about 45 members. They publish members’ works in Rafu Shimpo, Orange County free magazine, and many others. Morita feels very good when she receives comments from readers such as, “I haven’t laughed for a long time but today I really laughed, thank you,” or “I am bedridden from stroke, but I found encouragement to live from your senryu.”

Senryu is a simple combination of 7-5 Japanese words and easily composed by anyone. It reflects the core of Japanese culture and helps activate brain activity. Last year, Morita started a new genre “etegami senryu.” Her motto is to share the joy of living and creativity.

• Joan Sumiko Kaneshiro Oshiro remembers learning the terms “aloha” and “a ki shya mi yo” as a young child growing up in Honolulu. “Aloha” is a welcoming greeting as well as a fond farewell to loved ones. “A ki shya mi yo” was the Okinawan expression her father, Shigenobu Kaneshiro, and her mother, Kikue, used whenever Oshiro and her two older brothers were in trouble. They heard the second expression quite often.