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KIMIKO YUMOTO - BURLINGTON - Kimiko Yumoto on June 2, 2015, ended her life journey that took her from a valley beneath the Japan Alps to the foothills of the Green Mountains. Kimiko left us on the day and in the manner of her choosing, but long before her time. She was 60 years old. She was a woman of fierce spirit and strong will. She was quick to laugh, embraced the experiences that came her way and open to the people who came into her life. In Vermont, Kimiko found a community and outlets for creative expression, from spreading her love of flowers through ikebana, to creating origami accessories, to performing as a member of the Burlington Taiko Group. That Kimiko lived a rich life that touched many people was made clear by the devotion to the very end of those who knew her. Kimiko was born March 3, 1955, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, the daughter of Michiro and Hanae Yumoto. She graduated from the Tokyo Women's University Junior College and Waseda University, both in Tokyo, and worked for many years in the production department of Asahi Evening News, an English-language newspaper in Tokyo. During those years, her travels took her across Europe, Asia, the United States and Australia. Kimiko married Michiaki (Aki) Soga in 1989, and kept her name, an unusual decision at that time in Japan, but just one more reflection of her independent spirit. In 1991, she chose to move to the United States with her husband, leaving behind her homeland, family, friends and all that was familiar to start a new life in a foreign country, an act of immeasurable courage, faith and love. In Vermont, Kimiko with Aki started a family, putting her energies into her sons, Hiro and Yuki, and delighting in their efforts and accomplishments as only a mother can. She passed on her skill in creating Japanese-style arrangements as a teacher of the Sogetsu school of ikebana. She traveled around the state to classrooms from grade school to college, as well as to various cultural events to bring a taste of Japan to Vermont. For many years, she was a familiar face at craft fairs and artists markets where she sold her handmade origami accessories, and for a decade she was a performing member of the Burlington Taiko Group. Kimiko also taught Japanese and introduced Japanese tourists to Vermont as a tour guide. Kimiko was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's Disease in 2007. In 2011, the diagnosis was revised to Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a rare neurodegenerative condition that diminishes a person's autonomic functions and over time took from Kimiko the ability to live life on her own terms. The condition is invariably fatal. Kimiko chose to end her life through physician-assisted suicide under Vermont's Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act (Act 39). Throughout her illness, she benefited from the kindness of friends and neighbors who stopped by to demonstrate their love by sharing in her care or by just keeping company. There is Maggie Holt, a dear friend who worked tirelessly to ease Kimiko's discomfort and fought alongside her to hold off the degenerative effects of MSA; Suzanne Hall, also a dear friend and taiko troupe-mate, who could always make her smile and from whom we asked much more than we had a right to expect; Gabby Gurt, who helped ease her body and spirit through music and motion; and Grace Flowers who was a faithful companion always full of kindness. The members of the Anzu-kai, her support community, were always available with a meal, with cheer and with comfort. During Kimiko's final weeks, her closest friends from Japan who had shared their college years as members of an avantgarde theater troupe in Tokyo made the trip from across the ocean to share memories and laugh over old stories one more time. Kimiko's brother came from Japan to stay with her to the end, as did her mother-in-law, Ryoko Soga, from Seattle. And Burlington Taiko turned out in full force on her front lawn so she could enjoy one last spirited performance by her comrades in drumming. Kimiko and her family received countless acts of thoughtfulness, each received with heartfelt appreciation, but too numerous to mention individually. Many, many people went far beyond what we would have been expected of even the closest of friends to offer comfort and support. We will always remain grateful for each act and thought of kindness. Kimiko is survived by her husband of 26 years, Aki, and her two sons, Michihiro (Hiro) Soga and Michiyuki (Yuki) Soga; as well as her brother, Megumu Yumoto and his wife, Harumi, and two nephews, Kei-ichi and Jiro, in Japan. Her parents preceded her in death. The Yumoto-Soga family would like to thank those who provided care for Kimiko as she lived with MSA, including her neurologist Dr. James Boyd, and hospice doctors Dr. Zeil Berry and Dr. Jaina Clough; the people of the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties, including Donna Zarro her hospice nurse, and Violetta Ayrapetova, her trusted caregiver who became her friend. We would also like to thank the members of the Vermont chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association, with whom she found support and understanding for her experience. In lieu of flower, we ask that donations be sent to the Vermont chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association, Kimiko's body will be cremated after a family Buddhist ceremony, with her ashes to be divided for interment in the two places she considered home, Nagano and Vermont. We invite Kimiko's friends to join us for the 49th day memorial service at a later date.

Published in The Burlington Free Press on June 4, 2015
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