NVC Newsletter


June 2018, Volume 68, Issue 6

Joseph A Matsudaira

August 12, 1939 - May 15, 2018

Born in Seattle on August 12, 1939 to Thomas Tokuhisa and Theresa Hotoru Matsudaira, Joseph Yukio Anthony was the ninth of 14 children. On May 15, 2018, after a courageous battle with cancer, Joe passed away in his sleep, with family at his side.

At age four, Joe was incarcerated in Camp Minidoka, Idaho, with his family during World War II. After returning to Seattle in 1945, Joe attended the Immaculate Conception Elementary School and O’Dea High School. Following his service in the Army as an electronic countermeasures specialist, Joe attended the University of Washington where he graduated in Business. He worked at Boeing and Xerox before stepping into a career as a securities broker with Smith Barney, Prudential Bache, and Wachovia. He finally retired after 25 years.

In 1967 Joe married Brenda Taniguchi and they had two children. He was a Lifetime Member of the Nisei Veterans Committee and played in the Asian Basketball League for 22 years. He was a loyal fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Huskies. Throughout his final days, Joe never lost his natural ability to make people laugh. Joe comforted his loved ones with his quick wit, in spite of his most difficult times.

Joe is survived by his wife, Brenda and their children Garrett (Kate) and Shelly; grandsons Jax and Barron; brothers Jim (Hisa), Theo (Joyce), Mitch, Vincent (Charlotte), Stephen (Linda) Matsudaira; sisters Pauline (Mako) Yaguchi, Ida Matsudaira, Theresa (Wes) Kokame; and sisters-in-law Lillian and Barbara. Donations may be made to NVC, 1212 S. King St, Seattle WA 98144 or Keiro NW, 1601 E. Yesler Way, Seattle WA 98144.

Toshikazu Okamoto

October 8, 1926 – May 19, 2018

Tosh Okamoto was born on October 8, 1926 to Juhei and Sugie Okamoto in Seattle Washington and passed away peacefully on May 19. 2018. He was driven by family, community, justice, fairness and equity, and his energy and focus on these commitments leaves an enduring legacy.

Tosh was born into a family of meager means, and as the eldest son, he carried extra responsibilities. The family lived on borrowed land which they cleared and farmed, selling the produce at Pike Place Market. Tosh would wake early to help harvest, drive and drop off his father and the vegetables at Pike Place Market, go to school, then return to pick up his father (before he had a driver’s license). Tosh and his family were illegally imprisoned with 110,000 loyal Japanese and Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They were initially taken to Tule Lake, CA and later moved to Heart Mountain, WY. While there, Tosh’s father suffered a debilitating heart attack that weakened him for the rest of his life. Tosh – like hundreds of others imprisoned in barbed wire camps - joined the Army and served in Italy with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team even while his family was still held in camp.

Following the war, Tosh met his “dream girl,” Toshiko Akagi. They married in November 6, 1949. Despite racial discrimination against Japanese Americans following WW II, Tosh was able to secure employment as a certified mechanic, the first ethnic minority hired in the Seattle Fire Department. After 32 years of service, and having advanced from a mechanic to a supervisor, Tosh retired.

A nursing home’s mistreatment of an Issei (first generation) father whose son was killed while serving in the military outraged Tosh and prompted him to help co-found Keiro, a skilled nursing home for elderly Japanese. His efforts spawned the building of a condominium for seniors (Midori House) and independent assisted living facility (Nikkei Manor) where he and his wife lived. Among Tosh’s many recognitions, the Emperor of Japan bestowed on Tosh the Order of the Rising Sun award in April 2006. In September 1981, Tosh testified before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens about the injustices imposed on Japanese and Japanese Americans during WW II. On August 10, 1988, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed recognizing the “grave injustice” done to “both citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry.” That act of the U.S. Congress finally made Tosh finally feel like he belonged in the United States. Tosh believed that despite the United States’ injustices, it is the greatest country in the world because it corrects those mistakes.

In April 2017, Tosh heard the sobering assessment that there was an 80% chance he would not survive a year due to his medical conditions. Tosh courageously accepted his deteriorating condition and his doctor’s challenge to live each day with purpose. He encouraged a collaborative project with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, Nisei Veterans Committee, and the Japanese Consulate of Seattle to educate the public on the similarities of discrimination and persecution of Jews and Japanese during WW II, and parallels with emerging attitudes and discriminatory behaviors toward Muslims and immigrants today.

Tosh is survived by his wife of 68 years, Toshi; children Joyce Miyabe, Susan Lane (Tom), John (Sharon), Sheila (Craig) Omoto; grandchildren Stephen (Paige) Miyabe, Charissa Pomrehn (Greg), Davey Miyabe (Risa), Shawna Okamoto (Austin Nagasako), Tricia Omoto, Cara Butler (Clayton), Lauren Lane, Jordan Omoto, Zack Lane; great grandchildren Noah, Nico and 3/4 Pomrehn, Regan, Carter and Ronnie Miyabe, and Kira and Lia Nagasako, and older sister, Maureen Brousseau.

A public celebration will be held on September 22, 2018, 2pm, at the Blaine Memorial Methodist Church, 3001 24th Avenue South, Seattle, Washington. In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to: Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church, Nisei Veterans Committee, and Keiro Northwest.