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Obituary: Mary Matsuno, Featured in Documentary ‘First to Go’

Mary Matsuno

SAN FRANCISCO — Mary (Merry) Hisako Matsuno passed away peacefully on June 11 at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. She was 90.

Born in San Francisco on Dec. 31, 1927, she was a daughter of Ichiro and Shige Kataoka, immigrants from Japan.

Matsuno was featured in “First to Go: Story of the Kataoka Family,” an award-winning documentary by her grandson Myles Matsuno. The title refers to her father, proprietor of the Aki Hotel in Japantown, who was taken away in handcuffs by the FBI just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Singled out because he was a prominent community leader, Kataoka was interned in Montana, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico before finally being reunited with his family at the Topaz camp in Utah.

After the war, the family operated Aki Travel Service in Japantown.

Myles Matsuno said of the Nisei, “Their stories are so raw and most have great spirits considering what they went through. My grandmother, Mary Matsuno, is one of these people. Her laughter and personality is something that’s rare. It shines through when you meet her in person as well as through the lens of a camera.”

“First to Go” premiered at the Nichi Bei Foundation’s Films of Remembrance last year.

“I knew going into this film that one day I would have to change how it ended,” Myles Matsuno said after his grandmother’s passing. “It was hard to type the words and make this new cut, but man, was I lucky to have her as my obaachan. You were proud of me, but I was more proud of you.”

He quoted her as saying, “Don’t count the days. Let the days count.”

Matsuno is predeceased by her husband, James “Jinx” Matsuno, sisters Toshiko and Joanne Akiko, and brothers Kazuo and Takashi; survived by sister Maya Mizuhara, daughter Christine (Harry, deceased) Fukumitsu, son Mark Matsuno, son Rick (Susanne) Matsuno, grandchildren Skye and Trent Fukumitsu, Myles (Whitney) Matsuno and Alyssa (Derek) Dessert, and great-grandsons Kaidrin and Kyler Fukumitsu.

A private memorial service (family members only) will be held at Ashley & McMullen in San Francisco on July 7.

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