Passed away Tuesday, January 17th at Redlands Community Hospital in Redlands, California following a brief illness. Kazuko was 84.
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Born in Kobe Japan March 30, 1927 to her loving mother and father, Kazuko began a life of love and strength that she shared with everyone whose lives she touched, which were many.
Loving and devoted, Kazuko was married to her husband, Charles Swauger, for 59 years. Together they had three beautiful and amazing children, John, Charles, and Charlotte as well as two grandchildren, Mandi and John Henry.
Over the years of her life Kazuko attained many goals and achieved many accomplishments. A "San-Dan", or third degree black belt in Judo, Kazuko worked with the pioneer of women's Judo, Fukuda Sensei, along with her Judo partner and friend, Elizabeth Lee.
Renowned fixtures in the women's Judo community and champions in the sport, Kazuko and Elizabeth traveled the nation together and won the Ju-No-Kata division of the AAU Judo Championships for two consecutive years in 1972 and 1973.
For 16 years as sensei of the Judo program at Norton Air Force Base, Kazuko along with her husband Charles were known as "Mom and Pop Judo" and taught many men, women, and children throughout their tenure.
A Highland, California resident for over 40 years, Kaz (as she was affectionately known)was a beloved and influential teller at Bank of America for 15 years. She walked to work every day. Later, as a member of the Highland Senior Center she actively pursued travel and exercise and made many friends along the way. Always a talented and gifted artist, her sketches and watercolors made way later in life to incredibly gorgeous oil paintings. She was a faithful correspondent and wrote many letters to her numerous friends and to her family. Gifted shopper, orderer of much sushi, constantly snapping pictures and cooking for her family, there is nothing she could not do.
Kazuko was a force of life, strength, inspiration, love and hope to so many and while there is a hole in our lives now that she is gone from us, it is filled by what she gave us to make us the people we are today. Survived by her husband Charles Swauger, her children John Swauger, Charles Swauger, and Charlotte Swauger, her daughters-in-law Janet Swauger and Gretchen Swauger, her grandchildren John Henry Swauger, Mandi Swauger-Smith and her husband Christopher Smith, her brother Jun Abe and his wife Yoko Abe and their children, Mariko and Kyoshi. And of course, her beloved Shiba Inu, Fuji. When she held out her arms, the world itself wrapped around us and held us tight
Published in San Bernardino Sun on January 31, 2012