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OBITUARY: Stone Ishimaru, 95; Nisei Photographer and Educator

Stone Ishimaru exhibited “Internment Camp Photos, 1942-1944” at Fred Korematsu Day in Pasadena in January 2013. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Nisei photographer Saburo “Stone” Ishimaru passed away on Sept. 10. He was 95.

Born on May 9, 1923 in El Centro, Ishimaru was the third son of a Japanese immigrant farmer.

During World War II, he was incarcerated in Poston, Ariz., where his passion for photography led him to archive life in the camp for the War Relocation Authority using a Kodak 120 box camera that was given to him.

After two years in camp, the WRA arranged work for him as a photographer assistant in Kansas City, Mo. until he traveled to New York City, six months later, to work as a lab technician/photographer of famous patrons for Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe nightclub.

Ishimaru joined the Merchant Marines (U.S. Coast Guard) in 1945. His only assignment was sailing to Rotterdam to pick up GIs returning home before being honorably discharged. He volunteered for the Army in 1946 and spent the next three years as a U.S. Army photographer, private first class, for Gen. Robert Eichelberger’s 8th Army Headquarters, documenting the repatriation forces based out of Yokohama.

Upon his honorable discharge from the Army in 1948, Ishimaru returned state-side to attend Los Angeles City College and transferred to the University of Southern California in 1950. He graduated in 1953 with a B.A. in cinema and education as well as earning an M.A. in cinematography in 1958.

Stone Ishimaru took this photo of The Poston Press Bulletin. He would later be assigned as a photographer in Japan during the U.S. occupation.

Ishimaru was a life-long educator, working as a teacher, media consultant and archival and historical coordinator for the Los Angeles Unified School District for 46 years. In recent years, he shared his “Internment Camp Photos” exhibition at public events throughout ‘Southern California.

In 1956, he married the love of his life, Joan (who passed away in 2005), and they had three children, Alison, Paul (Linda) and Tracy.  Ishimaru is survived by his children; five grandchildren: Lisa, Michael, Ryan, Samantha and Kyle; and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Burke Triolo Studio, 538 Mission St,, South Pasadena, on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, the Stone Ishimaru Memorial Scholarship will honor his legacy for students of visual performing arts.

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