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UPDATED: Those We Lost in 2017

Some of the notable individuals who died in the past year, in alphabetical order:

Lewis Abe, 94, on Dec. 14, 2016. After WWII, he helped his father establish Abe Nursery in Gardena and later relocated the business to Carpinteria.

Amey Aizawa, 94, on April 23. She helped her husband Hats start and maintain his successful graphic design business, Aizawa and Furuta, in San Francisco for many decades.

John Avildsen, 81, on June 16. Academy Award winner for “Rocky” and director of three “Karate Kid” films, the first of which led to an Oscar nomination for Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi.

Dennis Banks, 80, on Oct. 29. Co-founder of the American Indian Movement, he organized and led the Sacred Run across Japan from Hiroshima to Hokkaido, published his autobiography, “Sacred Soul,” in Japan, and collaborated with Kitaro.

Ann (Kodama) Cullum, 98, on April 20. She was a Sunday school teacher, Christian camp counselor, PTA president, museum docent, Girl Scout leader, Cub Scout den mother and successful insurance agent.

Rev. John Doami, 81, on Aug. 16. Served as minister at L.A. Betsuin, Gardena Buddhist Church and Orange County Buddhist Church. Also worked for L.A. County Public Library until his retirement.

Roy H. Doi, 84, on Oct. 9. He was distinguished professor emeritus of molecular biology at UC Davis, where he taught for over 40 years. He was also recognized for his support of the Asian American Studies Program at UCD.

Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, on June 17. Yeoman 3rd class aboard the USS Fitzgerald, which collided with a commercial container ship, resulting in the death of seven sailors.

March Fong Eu, 95, on Dec. 21. After serving in the State Assembly, she became the first woman to serve as California secretary of state and the first Chinese American to hold constitutional office in California. She also served as U.S. ambassador to Micronesia.

Eni Faleomavaega, 73, on Feb. 22. Served 13 terms as American Samoa’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Eileen Tabata Fitzpatrick on Feb. 5. Born in the Gila River camp, she founded Kanojo and later Sachiko Fashions, based in Irvine, to express and bring pride to her Japanese American heritage through her designs.

Michito Frank Fukuzawa, 93, on June 24. A 442nd RCT veteran, he worked for the L.A. Unified School District for 35 years and was active at Gardena Valley Baptist Church, Go For Broke National Education Center and other organizations.

Suiko Grant, 75, on Oct. 9. She and her 95-year-old husband Arthur died in their Santa Rosa home during the Tubbs Fire. The two met when she was working for a Japanese company in Hawaii and he was a pilot for Pan Am.

Bob Hamaguchi, 70, on Sept. 4. Longtime executive director of the Japantown Task Force and board member of the Japantown Foundation in San Francisco.

Kozo George Hamanaka, 95, on April 11. After camp, he was an appliance repairman specializing in TV repair for Tamura and Company. He started Ko’s TV and Appliance Service in the 1960s.

Tak Hamano, 92, on April 14. Retired president of cracker and cookie manufacturer Umeya Rice Cake Co. in Los Angeles (founded in 1924), son of founder Yasuo Hamano, and lifelong humanitarian.

Edna Hashimoto, 90, on Sept. 7. After release from the Rohwer camp, she was the first Japanese American to work for the Sharpe Army Depot near Stockton. After moving to Los Angeles with her husband, she worked for Hughes Aircraft Co. as an administrative assistant.

Tsutomu Hata, 82, on Aug. 28. Served as Japan’s prime minister in 1994 while leading a coalition government; 14-time House of Representatives member.

Frank Hays, 58, on March 3. Associate regional director for natural and cultural resource stewardship and science in National Park Service’s Northeast Region; superintendent of Manzanar National Historic Site from 2001 to 2005.

Shuntaro Hida, 100, on March 20. A former Japanese army doctor who survived the Hiroshima bomb, he directed the counseling center of the Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations and traveled around the world to tell the survivors’ stories.

Harvey Horikawa, 69, on Oct. 18. He was a founding partner of two law firms, worked for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, served as a board member of the Japanese American Bar Association, and was a member of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

Wayne “Charlie” Horino, 69, on Oct. 20. Real estate agent and musician. Member of Wheels of Fire and Soul Reflections, founding member of Kokoro.

Grant Ichikawa, 98, on Dec. 3. A Military Intelligence Service veteran of WWII who also served in Korea and Vietnam, he helped compile a roster of MIS vets and was a leader of the Japanese American Veterans Association who participated in the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in 2011.

Masako Imai, 100, on Dec. 31, 2016. A long-time member of San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

Michael Inoue, 80, on Dec. 23, 2016. Grew up in seven countries, taught engineering at Oregon State University for 16 years, worked at Kyocera International Inc. for 22 years, became president emeritus of Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana, served as honorary consul general of Japan in San Diego.

Kazuko Inouye, 87, on June 18. She was a self-employed grocer, working with her husband and brother-in-law at the Moon Market on Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino.

Howard Iseda, 89, on Jan. 10. He had a long career with Blue Cross/Blue Shield and was president of Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and Southern District BCA Council, and vice president of BCA National Council.

George Ito, 89, on Nov. 12. He served in the Army during the Korean War and ran a successful business, Nisei Signs, in Gardena.

Philip Ito, 71, on May 17. dedicated 40 years of his life to his family’s company, Fia Insurance Services in Pasadena. He was a longtime supporter of JACCC and Little Tokyo Service Center/Budokan.

Rev. Edward Toshio Iwamoto, 85, on Nov. 27. He was the pastor at Centenary, West L.A. and Sage UMC before moving to Seattle and serving various churches in the Pacific Northwest Conference. (Editor’s note: Rev. Iwamoto’s last name was misspelled in the print version of this article. We regret the error.)

Kuwashi Edward Iwataki, 97, on Nov. 26. A veteran of the 442nd RCT who participated in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in France, he was an avid golfer and a lifelong member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

Charles Jenkins, 77, on Dec. 11. A former U.S. soldier who deserted to North Korea and later married a Japanese abductee, Hitomi Soga. After Soga was repatriated in 2002, Jenkins and the couple’s two daughters were allowed to join her in 2004.

Lucille Okada Johnson, 97, on July 8. She retired from a lengthy and successful career with Bank of America and became a real estate agent.

Paul Jonokuchi, 69, on March 21. Taught industrial arts at King Middle School, Van Nuys HS, Canoga Park High School; taught Japanese at Canoga Park HS, Mission College, Moorpark College. Co-founder (with wife Nobuko) and principal of Wakaba Japanese Language School; president of San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, SFV Japanese Language Institute, SFV Japanese American Community Center.

Bruce Kaji, 91, on Oct. 26. A WWII veteran, he was elected Gardena city treasurer, led the fight to establish the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Association, organized Merit Savings & Loan, and served as founding president of the Japanese American National Museum, which opened its doors at the former Nishi Hongwanji Temple building in 1992.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, 87, on April 1. A pioneer in electronic musical instruments and a Technical Grammy Award winner, he was founder of Japanese companies Ace Tone, Roland Corporation, Boss Corporation and ATV Corporation. He was involved in developing drum machines, sequencer, guitar amplifiers and effects pedals.

Noritoshi Kanai, 94, on April 22. Known as the Culinary Ambassador of Japan to the U.S., he worked for Mutual Trading Co. for 65 years. As chairman, he made it possible for everyone in America to experience authentic Japanese culinary culture. His innovations included the first sushi bar in the U.S.

Yori Kanamori, 93, on July 6. She retired from UCLA Medical Center after many years as a registered nurse.

George Kanatani, 98, on March 13. A decorated veteran of the 442nd RCT, he was inducted into the French Legion of Honor. He worked at the post office in Redlands for 34 years.

Jim Kanno, 91, on July 15. Was on the committee to incorporate the Talbert area in Orange County into Fountain Valley and was elected as its first mayor in 1957. Chaired Japanese American Council of Historical and Cultural Foundation of Orange County.

Ruby Kashiwagi, 87, on March 31. She was executive secretary to various presidents of Japan-based Pentel of America and became a master sensei in the Misho-Ryu Miyaho-Kai School of Ikebana.

George Kato, 85, on Dec. 4. Leader in Orange County Japanese American community who actively promoted judo and Japanese language studies, serving as president of Southern California Judo Parents Federation and Southeast Japanese School and Community Center.

Sachi Kawahira, 84, on July 28. She worked with her husband Hideo in the flower farm business for over 40 years and was an active member of Salinas Buddhist Temple, Nansatsu Doshikai and Nikkei Kokusai Kekkon Tomonokai.

Fujiye Kawase, 99, on March 23. She and her husband Hideo owned a grocery/liquor store in Skid Row, then sold the business and became volunteers at Pioneer Center.

Teresa Nicol Kimura, 38, on Oct. 1. One of 58 people killed during the mass shooting in Las Vegas, she attended CSU Fullerton, worked for Orange County, and attended For His Glory Church in Fullerton.

Yoshihiko Kitagawa, 97, on Jan. 19. A dedicated member of Gedatsu Church

Haruko Kobata, 101, on May 16. The mother-in-law of former Alhambra City Councilmember Gary Yamauchi, she was recognized by the mayor and City Council in 2016 when she turned 100.

Mitsuo “Mits” Kodama, 103, on March 7. He performed with the Akatsuki Band for over 50 years, had a long career as a gardener, and supported his wife Ayako’s Shunyo School of Ikebana.

James Komatsu, 92, on March 21. A WWII veteran, he spent 25 years working in Downtown L.A. in the arts and crafts field, making fine jewelry. He was cared for by the Salvation Army as a boy and later as a senior.

Kazue Kudo, 91, on Oct. 9. A renowned koto musician and teacher, she played the instrument daily for almost 70 years and taught in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Her protégés include June Kuramoto, a founding member of the band Hiroshima.

Isao Kudow, 91, on May 19. A WWII veteran, he was a supporter of Go For Broke National Education Center and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

Nobuo Kurita, 95, on May 1. He was a cook at Edgewater Beach Hotel and worked at Poppy Cleaners in Chicago. After moving to Sacramento, he was active with Gleaners of Sacramento and Parkview Presbyterian Church.

Ed Lee, 65, on Dec. 12. The first Asian American elected to serve as mayor of San Francisco, he served the city in various capacities since 1989 and was previously a housing rights activist and civil rights attorney.

Mike Lowry, 78, on May 1. Former congressman and former Washington governor who introduced the Japanese American Human Rights Violation Redress Act in 1979 and also supported subsequent redress legislation.

Angus Macbeth, 74, on Jan. 22. Served as special counsel to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, whose report, “Personal Justice Denied,” and recommendations formed the basis for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Fumiko Machida, 91, on Aug. 8. She was the business manager and widow of plastic and reconstructive surgeon and WWII veteran Roy Machida and was a polling place volunteer at Kenter Canyon School for decades.

Mary (Wada) Marumoto, 102, on Dec. 27, 2016. She lovingly cared for children at the Japanese Shonien Children’s Home in Los Angeles in the 1930s.

Masao Masuda, 100, laid to rest Dec. 16. An interpreter and translator with the Military Intelligence Service during WWII, he farmed in Fountain Valley with his brother Mitsuo. His photographs of camp and memorabilia of his brother Kazuo, who was killed in action, are in a digital exhibit on the Smithsonian website.

Etsuko Takahashi Mayeda, 91, on May 18. She was an elementary school teacher for many years and owned a successful sewing business in Torrance,

Dr. Hiroshi Mitsuoka, 81, on Nov. 10. He established Mitsuoka Medical Clinic in Little Tokyo, which serves both English- and Japanese-speaking patients.

Grace (Wada) Miyamoto, 82, on Aug. 24. She was a social worker in Los Angeles, the moved to Kona with her husband and worked for his optometry practice. She wrote articles for The Hawaii Herald and published a book, “American Pearls.”

Hitomi “Stoney” Miyamoto, 71, on Sept. 11. She began a career in the jewelry business in San Francisco and continued in Los Angeles. She and her friends later opened Ryu Gifts and Décor in Studio City.

Rev. Dr. John Mizuki, 94, on Feb. 18. He pastored churches in Brazil and Southern California and served as superintendent of the Pacific Coast Japanese Conference of the Free Methodist Church and director of Japanese Evangelization Center.

Ryo Munekata, 96, on Sept. 29. A dentist and past president of L.A. Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, he was forced to abandon his studies at USC during WWII but received an honorary diploma in 2012. He was also involved in the Japanese Language School Memorial at University of Washington-Tacoma, dedicated in 2014.

Patrick Nagatani, 72, on Oct. 27. Noted photographer and educator whose art has been displayed internationally and documented in numerous publications and films. His story is told in the documentary “Living in the Story,” to be shown in 2018.

Glenn Michitane Nakadate, 81, on Feb. 18. He and partner Hideo Karatsu formed the Alamitos Anesthesia Medical Group in Los Alamitos. He visited over 165 countries and wrote travel articles for Nichi Bei Weekly and Rafu Shimpo as the Kaeru Kid.

Haruo Nakajima, 88, on Aug. 8. The actor who wore the Godzilla suit in 12 films, starting with the original in 1954, and also appeared in such movies as “Rodan” and “Mothra” and on TV in “Ultraman.”

Fumio Nakama, 84, on Oct. 13. He was an active member of Nanka Kagoshima Kenjinkai, Kenjinkai Kyogikai, San Fernando Valley Japanese School, San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center, and SFV Meiji Club.

Doris Nakamura, 85, on Sept. 10. She worked for many years at Caltrans and was an active member of Okinawa Club, dedicated to preserving her father’s legacy of Okinawan music and dance.

Grace Shinoda Nakamura, 90, on May 30. An artist, teacher, environmentalist and community activist, she is featured in a barracks exhibit at Manzanar, served as a trustee of the Whittier Public Library, and exhibited her artwork at various venues.

Masaya Nakamura, 91, on Jan. 22. Founder of Namco an amusement ride manufacturing company that grew under his leadership into the third-largest video game developing entity in Japan during the ’70s and ’80s. Known as “the father of Pac-Man.”

Thomas Nakamura, 94, on March 2. He was a WWII veeran, accountant, businessman, landscaper and retired member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 12.

Mei Nakano, 92, on March 26. A longtime community activist in the Bay Area, she published “Japanese American Women: Three Generations” and was a delegate to the White House Conference for Asian Pacific Women.

Don Nakaya Nielsen, 58, on Aug. 15. A pioneer in kickboxing and mixed martial arts, he was the first American-born chiropractor to set up a practice in Thailand. His Clinic Bio Energy Asia has provided chiropractic care for 25 years; clients include the Thai royal family.

Ernie Jane Masako Nishii, 78, on June 15. She was a ceramicist whose works reflected her WWII camp experience and a teacher at San Fernando Valley JACL’s Suzune mo Gakkou and Southeast Japanese Language School and Community Center’s Camp Hanabi.

Yukiye (Kusuda) Ogata, 93, on Jan. 11. After WWII, she, her husband John and her brothers opened the Garden Grove Nursery, Flower and Lawnmower shops. She was a member of Wintersburg Church.

James Makoto Ogawa, 93, on March 3. A 442nd RCT veteran, he was one of 11 Nisei soldiers who received France’s Legion of Honor in 2013.

Mitsuo Okamoto, 91, on Aug. 4. After serving in the Army in occupied Germany, he worked for the USDA’s Food and Inspection Department in Maryland and relocated to San Francisco and Tempe, Ariz.

Jack Ong, 76, on June 13. An actor, writer, activist and marketing professional, he appeared in numerous TV shows and films, served as senior pastor of Venice Christian Community Church, and was active with Screen Actors Guild, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, West L.A. UMC, East West Players and other organizations.

Masahide Ota, 92, on June 12. Former governor of Okinawa Prefecture who strived to resolve problems arising from the heavy presence of U.S. military bases in the island prefecture.

Yonekazu Satoda, 96, on Dec. 6. Military Intelligence Service veteran who serve as national treasurer of Japanese American Citizens League and board president of Asian Inc. and Buddhist Church of San Francisco.

Kazuo Sekino, 84, on April 19. He worked for Bank of Tokyo (later Union Bank) in Los Angeles for over 30 years and dedicated close to 20 years as a teacher and later principal of Venice Gakuen.

Ben Ko Shimazu, 90, on Feb. 6. He was a WWII veteran and charter member of VFW Kazuo Masuda Memorial Post 3670.

Laura Shipp, 50, on Oct. 1. One of the 58 people killed during the mass shooting in Las Vegas, she was a dispatcher for an air conditioner company and previously worked for the Conejo Valley Unified School District in Thousand Oaks and the Law Offices of RKM.

Tamiji Somen, 92, on Jan. 26. He was a long-time member and past president of Orange County Buddhist Church.

Ralph Sugimoto Jr., 75, on May 25. He was a partner in the accounting firm of Pfanner Tate and a founding members of Tate, Propp, Beggs and Sugimoto. He was an active member of Sacramento Betsuin, Buddhist Churches of America, Asian Community Center, Sacramento-Matsuyama Sister City Corp. and Sacramento Aichi Kenjin Kai.

Dorothy Sumi, 91, on Jan. 21. She worked for the Garden Grove School District as equipment and gym manager for the girls’ athletic program at Los Amigos High School and was active in PTA, Cub Scouts and other organizations.

Mary Kazuye Suyeishi, 90, on June 12. A Hiroshima survivor and president of the American Society of Hiroshima/Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors, she worked to assist her fellow hibakusha and promote world peace.

Seijun Suzuki, 93, on Feb. 13. A director and screenwriter who made 40 movies for Nikkatsu Co. from 1956 to 1967, working most prolifically in the yakuza genre. “Branded to Kill” is regarded as his magnum opus.

Edith Tanaka, 92, on Dec. 7. A member of Christ United Presbyterian Church in San Francisco since the 1960s, serving as deacon, church elder, choir member and volunteer; first woman and longest-serving president of Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

Francis Tanaka, 92, on April 29. 442nd RCT veteran and long-time family doctor in San Diego area. Served on board of Mercy Hospital and retired at age 82 from Scripps Clinic in Bonita. First recipient of Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego’s Kansha Award.

Jack F. Tanaka, 69, on Aug. 3. He worked for the State of California for 31 years and was a longtime resident of Diamond Bar, where he served as mayor and city councilman.

Sumiteru Taniguchi, 88, on Aug. 30. A Nagasaki survivor and an outspoken advocate for the abolishment of all nuclear weapons. He co-chaired the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations.

Arthur Tasaka, 95, on Jan. 26. A 442nd RCT veteran who received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Morinaga Tashiro, 91, on May 21. Previously a gardener, he established M. Tashiro Nursery in Salinas and continued his flower business until November 2016.

Mary Endo Tonai, 84, on Jan. 15. She volunteered for numerous organizations, including the Japanese American National Museum, where she received the Outstanding Volunteer Administration Award.

Yoshio Tsuchiya, 89, on Feb. 8. Actor known for his supporting roles in Akira Kurosawa’s films, including “Seven Samurai,” “Throne of Blood” and “Yojimbo.”

Tom Tsunoda, 97, on Jan. 19. He was officer in charge of the Goleta Post Office, served as president of Santa Barbara Buddhist Church, and was actively engaged in the operation of Perry Ranch.

Chiyo Nao Wada, 98, on July 21. She assisted the U.S. and British war effort as a civilian translator and broadcaster for the Office of War Information and worked for attorney Wayne Mortimer Collins, helping Japanese American renunciants regain their citizenship.

George Wakiji, 88, on May 7. A Korean War veteran, he worked at TWA, in PR, and for the government, including Peace Corps country director for Tonga. He was executive director of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and spoke to students about his experiences in the WWII camps.

Frank Watanabe, 96, on June 14. A veteran of the 442nd RCT’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, which liberated part of Dachau, he was an active member of VFW Post 9902 for over 40 years, serving as post commander and in other capacities.

Kelly Wong, 29, on June 5. A two-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, he died two days after falling about six stories from a ladder during a training exercise.

Don Yamagishi, 56, on Feb. 28. Best known for his work with JEMS (Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society) special camp ministries, he was a CPA, JD, notary, stockbroker and more.

Jim Yamashita on Dec. 18. 442nd RCT veteran who was educational project manager of “Echoes of Silence,” a CD containing profiles of Nisei soldiers who paid the ultimate price, a joint project of Americans of Japanese Ancestry WWII Memorial Alliance and Japanese American Living Legacy.

Rev. Jim Yanagihara, 85, on Sept. 19. Buddhist Churches of America minister emeritus who served nearly 30 years as minister at the Gardena, Watsonville, San Jose, Guadalupe and San Luis Obispo temples.

Tom Yanagihara, 84, on Sept. 3. He purchased Ouchi Nursery from his uncle in 1969 and ran it with his wife and son until 2004. He was a leader of House of Japan, Japanese Friendship Garden, Buddhist Temple of San Diego, San Diego JACL and other community organizations.

Jane Yasukochi, 92, on Jan. 24. She and her husband Fred farmed throughout North San Diego County, and was later active in Oxnard Buddhist Church Fujinkai and Women’s Auxiliary for Community Memorial Hospital.

Patrick Yogi, 85, on Sept. 4. After working on ejection seats for pilots in the U.S. Air Force, he worked at Philip’s Auto Service in Hawthorne for 35 years, retiring on his 65th birthday.

Ronald “Tubby” Yoshida, 90, on Nov. 20. He designed thrusters for the Apollo moon landing program at Marquardt Corp. and control systems for the Viking Mars expedition and other spacecraft at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Sadie Tokiko Yoshiwara, 94, on May 15. She worked in landscape maintenance with her husband Ted for over 50 years and the two were involved in 100th/442nd veterans’ activities.

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