KIMIKO YUMOTO
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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, http://parkinsonsvt.org/. 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.


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Published in The Burlington Free Press on Jun. 4, 2015.
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46 entries
May 29, 2020
How nice this is. Kimiko and I shared a room when we went to N.J. to honor Bruce Talbot to a church he loved and the choir that meant so much to him. Very faithful to her exercise regiment. Took her mat along to N.J. not to miss a day. She also donated pieces of her lovely jewelry for a raffle I was in charge of at our local hospital here in St. Albans.
We came to know each other through the Vt. Chapter For Parkinson Disease. Lovely Lady.

Blessings,
Shirley
Shirley Jacobs
Friend
June 16, 2015
Kimiko san,I always remember your wonderful smile. Gasshyou.
Setsuko Aday
June 14, 2015
Kaoru Saito, former Asahi Evening News staff writer, read a translated version of Aki Soga's obituary at an AEN staff reunion in Tokyo on June 13.
Taro Karasaki
June 8, 2015
Aki, I am so sorry for you and your family. ?As difficult as it is right now, her memory will continue to light up your life. I have learned it is important to be grateful for all the time we have together, even when it is cut so cruelly short.
Eloise Hedbor
June 8, 2015
To Aki and family -- Your poignant obit for Kimiko makes me so sorry that we never connected. Our daughter, Betsy Walkerman, describes her as a wonderful, high-energy person. It's comforting to know that she was able to choose her own path at the end. Ginny joins me in extending our deep and heartfelt sympathy on your loss of someone so talented and so young.
Dick Walters
June 7, 2015
Minori Hirayama
June 7, 2015
Shusaku Nishi
June 6, 2015
Kimiko was one of my first yoga students at Shelburne health and fitness. Though privy to her early diagnosis we continued to practice together until we did not. I think of kimiko every time I arrange my flowers - spaciousness is best - after taking my ikebana class at her home. And I will treasure the origami earrings she gifted to me. A brave beautiful woman. A smile so inviting and radiant. Rest in peace sweet lady. Love to your family and devoted friends.
Jane Michaud
June 6, 2015
Aki Thanks you for this eloquent portrayal of Kimiko. I was a student of Kimiko's for the last eight years she taught me the way of the flowers - how to see beauty in line, color, and form. In truth, however, she taught me so much more... How to live each day with grace, joy, compassion, courage, playfulness, love, and laughter, always laughter. How fitting that she chose to leave us on the day and in the manner of her own choosing. Such wisdom and strength. I would expect nothing less from her. She was a beloved friend and a gift to my life. I shall miss her terribly.
Kathy Roberts
June 5, 2015
We remember the days growing babies together with Kimiko san during our stay in Vermont, and her great smile. My deepest respect to you and your family.
Mari & Satsuo Kiyono
June 5, 2015
What a beautiful life story you honored Kimiko with here. Thanks for sharing your history with us. It's clear your wife & partner was a pioneer in so many ways. Love & regards to you and your young men.
Rick & Hilary
June 5, 2015
Kimiko lived with such beauty, grace and generosity. I was blessed to have been a friend and admire her resiliency. Let her smile live on and hold her family. Nancy
Nancy Hellen
June 5, 2015
To Kimiko's family,
Her gift to the world lives on. Our hearts are with you.
Vivian Esparza
June 5, 2015
Kimiko was a beautiful, caring person who opened her heart to all she met. It is sad that such a terrible disease took everything away from someone who had so much energy and enthusiasm, and spent so much time giving to others. Aki, you and your boys are in my thoughts.
Tom
June 5, 2015
Dear Aki and family,
We remember her exquisite flower arrangements and enjoyed watching her demonstrations at Matsuri. We send you our sincere condolences.
Cindy & Ed Fischer
June 5, 2015
Ali, I'm so sorry.
Tom Kearney
June 5, 2015
Kimiko san was a beautiful multitalented and accomplished woman and mother with a smile that would light up the room and make all feel welcome. Like ripples in a pond she touched and benefited so many people in so many different walks of life. She will be so greatly missed.
William Bell
June 5, 2015
I am truly sorry to learn of Kimiko's passing. Such a wonderful person... such a wonderful neighbor. She will be missed.
Chery Bouchard
June 5, 2015
May Kimiko's peace bring peace to you, Aki. You're in our thoughts.
Ed Shamy, Kim Asch and Ezra
Ed Shamy
June 5, 2015
My prayers to Kimiko-san and her family. Your smile and humor helped me through the most trying times as I started out in the news business. Thanks to you I'm still here.
I won't say goodbye as I still feel your presence.
Taro Karasaki
June 4, 2015
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Aki. What a remarkable - and brave - life!
Ron Mochizuki
June 4, 2015
Mu
I know you only through the shadow of your husband's love and his grief. I know you only by the images of fine sons. But this is evidence enough of a compassionate being who chose the path of loving kindness. My deepest respect to you and your family.
David Kenyon
June 4, 2015
Aki and family,
My thoughts are with you. It is my sincere hope that all the sad thoughts are replaced by happy memories in short order.
Bruce Fleming
June 4, 2015
Aki and family,

I am truly sorry to learn of Kimiko's passing.

Alan Day
Alan Day
June 4, 2015
May her life live on in the flame of this candle.
Bobbi Hart
June 4, 2015
My dear friend Kimiko. I met you as your caregiver and we became friends very quickly. We laughed often and always ended with our Lake Champlain Chocolate! You will be missed by many, you were a very special and sweet lady! My condolences to Aki and the boys!
Linda Salmon
June 4, 2015
Kimiko was a truly beautiful soul that is a rare flower. She will be greatly missed by so many. I am honored to have known her and I am happy to think of her flying free of her body smiling down on those she loves. My thoughts are with you all.
Dora Sudarsky
June 4, 2015
Domo!
June 4, 2015
So sorry to hear about your loss, Aki.
Henry Moritsugu
June 4, 2015
I was a pottery friend of Kimiko's and remember her as an especially warm and friendly person. After she became ill, I was so impressed with her determined spirit and am very inspired by the way joyful way she lived her life. Martha Matthews
Martha Matthews
June 4, 2015
My sincere condolences to your whole family. She was clearly a unique and creative person.
Jim Rader
June 4, 2015
I met this wonderful woman almost 30 years ago in Tokyo. What grace and beauty! One of the best smiles I have ever seen. Rest in peace, Kimiko. My love to you, Aki, and to your family.
Diane Connell
June 4, 2015
Aki and family, my thoughts are with you. Such a kind, energetic, positive spirit. She will be missed by so many. But we will be here for you in the weeks and months ahead. geoff and your friends at young writers project
geoff gevalt
June 4, 2015
My sincere condolences to Aki and the boys. Thanks for sharing the story of this courageous woman. -- Tom Brown
Tom Brown
June 4, 2015
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. What a beautiful description of a very full and generous life. My thoughts are with you and your family.
Gaye Symington
June 4, 2015
I am so saddened by the loss of Kimiko. She was such a sweet and positive person--always ready with a smile, a hug, and a kind word. My sincere condolences to you, Aki, and your sons. I hope your memories will bring you peace.
Angela Corbin
June 4, 2015
I did not have the honor to have known her but I want to thank you for sharing her life story. She was a very courageous lady. We are fortunate to have this option for those who choose. May your memories bring your hearts peace.
Margaret Fraser
June 4, 2015
Kimiko was a great woman with strong will, but moreover, the great mother with strong love, and the great friend with so much wit. It is hard to believe that she's gone. Aki, Yuki, Hiro,
Thank you for taking care of her until the last, She's a happy lady.
June 4, 2015
I will miss Kimiko even thought we now met only yearly. She was a great teacher and friend.
Gail Candido
June 4, 2015
Aki and your family, so sorry to read of Kimiko's passing. I only knew her slightly from encounters over the years and seeing her smiling at Taiko performances. What a powerful story of her life and especially the challenges she and you faced in those final years and months. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you move into the next stage of life and remembrance.
Steve Mease
June 4, 2015
Dear Aki & family.

Don't believe I've ever read a nicer tribute for a very special lady. Kimiko and I had shared hotel rooms at a couple of events we attended for the Vt. Chapter for Parkinson disease. One was in Sturbridge, MA., and the other when we went to the celebration for Bruce Talbot in Jersey City. She also donated her fine jewelry for a benefit I was doing. The last time I saw her was at a support meeting being held on the Williston Rd. Always with a smile on her face. What a lovely photo. She now is at peace.

Bless you all.
Shirley Jacobs
June 4, 2015
Both Jonathan and I are so very sorry for your loss. We send our sympathy to each of you during this difficult time. Jonathan Aguillon and Jane Butler (Lajza)
Jane Lajza
June 4, 2015
I am so incredibly sorry, Aki. I have you and your family in my prayers in this time of unimaginable heartache and sorrow. I am so sorry.
Lynn Monty
June 4, 2015
It was an honor to know Kimiko san's beauty and talent and to be able to perform with and for her. She will be greatly missed. Love to her family.
Andrea Szewko
June 4, 2015
An extraordinary woman, an extraordinary life story. Equally inspirational -- the love, devotion, strength and grace of all of you, her family, in the face of her cruel illness. May wonderful memories and knowledge of how much you and she are loved sustain you. Nancy Remsen
Nancy Remsen
June 4, 2015
I did not know her but , she was an extrodinary woman . May she rest in peace .
Becky Gianni
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