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Taeko Joanne Iritani


09/21/1929 - 03/19/2015 Obituary
Taeko Joanne Iritani Obituary
Born in Bakersfield to Japanese immigrants, she died at home in Sacramento after a stroke. Joanne lived in Bakersfield most of her life. At age 12 she was forcibly moved with her family and all other Kern residents with Japanese ancestry, "alien and non-alien," to Poston Relocation Center in Arizona by the US government. From May 1942 until World War II ended in August 1945 they lived behind barbed wire and under armed guard with 17,814 others.
Joanne married Frank Iritani in 1956. They raised a family of three children in Bakersfield where they lived until 1992. She received degrees from Bakersfield College, UC Berkeley, '52, and CSU, Bakersfield, '85. She was a special education teacher for nearly 30 years. Joanne was given the Bakersfield Rotary Club's Outstanding Classroom Teacher award and then the Valley Forge Freedom Foundation Teacher's Honor Medal. The latter noted her exceptional effort to teach patriotism, responsible citizenship and better understanding of America to her students at Rafer Johnson School for the Mentally Retarded, at the time a school for intellectually disabled students ages three to 15.
Joanne readily volunteered in her community: Girl Scout leader, Cub Scout Den mother, PTA president, Job Corps, YWCA Board and cafe, the Bakersfield Wakayama Sister City Committee, St. Andrews Methodist Church, numerous Asian and multicultural festivals, among them. She was named Layman of the Year by the Bakersfield Council of Churches and in 1999 received the Bishop's award from the CA-Nevada UMC conference.With retirement in the 1980s Joanne and Frank traveled in a motorhome to visit family and friends or attend conferences and symposiums. Sidetrips to all 10 Japanese American Internment camps of WWII found that exact locations of the sites were obscure, many unknown to the locals.
The Iritanis wrote directions, drew maps and printed "Ten Visits," a booklet that shared their journeys and how to find the 10 camps. The revised book is now published by the Japanese American National Museum. They got valuable signatures to support Redress from people in the expansive Congressional district covering Kern, Santa Barbara, and rural parts of Los Angeles Counties. Joanne was chosen to represent the Poston camp at the 1999 groundbreaking of "The National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II" near the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Alongside Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt she ceremoniously broke ground for the monument.
Joanne helped develop the curriculum and led scores of "Time of Remembrance" programs in the Sacramento area for 5th grade students to learn about the internment, the importance of civil rights, and the US Constitution. Joanne spoke around the country including the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC. She collected numerous oral histories of internees for the Japanese American Archive Collection at CSU Sacramento. She included recollections about Bakersfield's "Aid to Japanese Methodist Evacuation Committee" formed by Trinity and First Methodist Church members and Emma Buckmaster and Lottie Phillips, Sunday school teachers of her own Japanese Methodist Episcopal Mission church, later called St. Andrews UMC. According to Joanne this local organization, formed to help the Japanese and Japanese Americans during and after WWII, was unique in the history of the internment.
Joanne is survived by her children, Susanna Iritani Minard and Richard Minard, Jr., Bow, NH; Ken Iritani and Lesley Iritani, Sacramento; and Bonita Iritani and Jon Hussey, Chapel Hill, NC, brothers Joe Ono, Hilo, HI, and Tak Ono, Bakersfield, and grandchildren: Alden Minard, Daniel Iritani, Kevin Iritani, Jacob Iritani, Marisa Iritani and Alex Hussey. She was predeceased by her husband, Frank, a brother, Yoneo Ono, and a sister, Tomi Monji.
Memorial service and lunch: April 11, 11 am, Centennial United Methodist Church, Sacramento. Memorial donations may be made to: Centennial UMC, 5401 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95822; Florin JACL Scholarship Fund, PO Box 292634, Sacramento, CA 95829-2634; or the Iritani Scholarship Fund, Centennial UMC, 5401 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95822.
Published in Bakersfield Californian on Apr. 7, 2015
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