Kimiko R. Sakai|
Our mom was diagnosed with cancer in early July. When asked
if she could do anything, go any-where in the next month - her wish was simple. She wished to be at home with her family, friends and faithful cat. She faced the last 3 months of her life with grace and courage, with acceptance and strength - still teaching us lessons about life, about death. At 88 years old, on October 3rd, she left us too soon; but she left as she had wished - at home surrounded by those and what she valued most in life.
On November 8, 1923 an energetic spirit was born to Yohei and Aya Takatsuka on Vashon Island, WA. On the family farm, Kimi worked side by side with her parents and 5 siblings. Living off the land, she recalled how her mom's homemade stews and pies tasted wonderfully different back then. Kimi appreciated the many sacrifices her parents made for the family and the rich simplicity of her childhood. Forever active and inquisitive, Kimi found joy in playing tennis, riding her bike, attending church functions and Japanese language school, swimming and dancing. She especially loved to jitterbug! In her later years, she loved to watch sports, read and share magazines with friends, grow beautiful flowers, cook, and master word puzzles.
As a young adult, mom moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington with the hope of
becoming a dietician. The dreams she sought after graduating from Vashon High School were put on hold. During WWII, her family was initially transported to Tule Lake, CA and then transferred to the Minidoka incarceration camp in Idaho. Most recently, in 2008, mom along with many Japanese Americans, whose lives and
educational pursuits were interrupted by the events of WWII,
received Honorary Bachelor of Arts
degrees from the U.W. Upon returning from camp, Kimi worked
with her family to rebuild their lives. They picked berries and worked for others until her older
brother, August, was able to purchase
farming land for the family.
It was at Minidoka where mom met our dad, Toshio Paul Sakai, while he was visiting his family. He caught a glimpse of her and their love story began. On September 18, 1948, Kimi and Tosh
married. They lived with the Sakai family on Bainbridge Island
where they raised their 3 children
while farming strawberries. Mom
became dad's partner when he
entered the real estate profession.
They discussed business over
morning cups of coffee and she
helped him with office responsibil-ities and entertaining clients. They enjoyed 35 years of marriage until Tosh's death in 1984. She made time to be involved with her children's activities and always welcomed their friends into her home. She also enjoyed fund-raising for Children's Hospital through her work with the Nisei Guild and cooking for fundraisers for the Bainbridge Island Japanese community. Through the years, people gathered to stop by for coffee and visits, to share the holidays and traditions. The doors
to her home and heart were always open.
Kimi embraced and loved her life and the people of the Bainbridge Island community for 64 years. We will miss her creativity, kind-ness, determination, warmth and laughter. We will miss her.
As her energy faded, the two words heard most from mom during her last months were "thank you." We take her heartfelt words and extend them to her family, her friends and her community members and the medical professionals at Virginia Mason who helped her through her last journey on this earth.
Kimi was preceded in death by her parents, Yohei and Aya Takatsuka; siblings - August Takatsuka (Vashon), Margaret Yamamoto (Seattle), Miriam Takatsuka (Vashon), Rose Maekawa (Spokane), George Takatsuka (Vashon); and her husband, Toshio Paul Sakai.
She is survived by her children, John (Jill) Sakai (Bainbridge Island), Mary Ann (Lance) Arnone
(Seattle), Dean Sakai (Bainbridge Island), granddaughter, Stacy Sakai (Suquamish), grandson, Paul (Seana) Sakai (Seattle), and great-granddaughter, Hannah Sakai (Suquamish). She is also survived by her sister-in-laws and their families, many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews and treasured friends - all who enriched her life and whose lives she touched as well.
A private, family graveside service will be held on Bainbridge Island and in keeping with her wishes, a simple, private Celebration of Life will be held in the spring.
Donations may be made to Helpline House, 282 Knechtel Way NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial at BIJAEMA, 221 Winslow Way West, Suite 306, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.
Published in The Seattle Times on Oct. 21, 2012