Tsuyuka "Mary" Nakagawa passed quietly on Monday, April 30, 2012, at Lodi Memorial Hospital. She was 88 years old. With the exception of four years in "camp" in Arkansas, starting at the beginning of World War II, she lived all of her life in Acampo. Born on New Year's Day, 1924 to Satoru and Masuko Kikumura, Mary was the first child of a family of ten girls and three boys. She was predeceased by two brothers who died when they were toddlers and a sister in 1994.
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Mary met and married Percy Tameki Nakagawa in 1943 in the Rohwer Internment Camp in Arkansas. In 1944, their first of five children was born. After the War's end she, her husband, and his family remained and farmed near Little Rock. A second child was born, and they decided to return to Acampo in 1946 to resume their lives. Before Pearl Harbor, the Nakagawa family patriarch, Mary's father-in-law, purchased a 450-acre river bottom parcel in Acampo. Luckily for them, the Nakagawa extended family was able start farming the land after returning to California. Mary, her husband and family re-established their lives including being active members of the Japanese-American community in Lodi and farming summer melons, winter squash, and grapes.
On December 27, 1953, a tragic event happened. Her husband Percy, father-in-law, father, and 7 year old son went fishing on a boat that capsized in the Sacramento Delta. Only her son survived. She was left a 29 year old widow with five children, the oldest being 9 years old. She remained on the ranch and raised her children. She farmed with her husband's family, her brother-in-law (Fred) and his family, mother-in-law, and two sisters-in-law (Mickey and Satomi). She was active in farming until about 2005.
In the last twenty-five years, when her responsibility of raising and educating her children was finished, Mary pursued her love of travel. Over the years, she visited places like Japan, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, China, and Greece. In recent years she traveled to places closer to home, the East Coast, Pacific Northwest and Canada. She enjoyed doing handcrafts and sewing. She loved music; she was part a Japanese "karaoke" singing group for many years.
Unassuming and always kind, Mary possessed quiet tenaciousness. This most was reflected in her dogged determination that all of her children pursue an education and complete at least a baccalaureate degree. She demonstrated an unwavering commitment to this goal. She was not one to brag but there is a family story: After her last child received his baccalaureate degree, she happened see her physician, H. Hoff, M.D. (father of her physician of more recent years, James Hoff, M.D.) for her annual physical. Very uncharacteristic for her, she proudly announced to her physician that the last of her five children completed college. Her doctor's response to her was that this was cause of celebration and he gave her a free physical exam. The intrinsic value of education was something that she held close to her heart. Over the years, she derived quiet pleasure and satisfaction whenever she attended graduation ceremonies involving her children and grandchildren who received degrees of various sorts, including advanced and professional degrees. Without question, an unending source of pleasure, sense of accomplishment as well as hope for the future for Mary was the various achievements and milestones of family, involving her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sisters and brother, nieces and nephews. She was a sweet, gentle person who provided simple encouragement to and acceptance of those who approached her. She truly was a generous person with a big heart.
Mary was survived by her children, daughter, Joyce Iwanaga and granddaughters, Maile Iwanaga and Joy Iwanaga (Joe Gumina) and great-grandson Montague Gumina; son, Glenn Nakagawa (Keiko) and grandchildren Janea Nakagawa (Craig Bergman) and great-grandchildren Lauren and Alec Bergman, Ty Nakagawa (Jennifer) and great-granddaughter Emily, Kevin Nakagawa, and Nicole Nakagawa; daughters, Janice Nakagawa (Steve Grogan) and Ardene Nakagawa; and son, Allan Nakagawa (Esther) and granddaughters, Lisa and Kim Nakagawa. She was predeceased by son-in-law Montague Iwanaga. She is survived by eight sisters and one brother and also many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service at the Buddhist Church of Lodi is scheduled for Saturday, May 12, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Buddhist Church of Lodi. Lodi Funeral Home is assisting the family with the arrangements.
Published in Lodi News-Sentinel from May 8 to May 16, 2012
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