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Russell Hiroyuki Yamaga

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Russell Hiroyuki Yamaga Obituary
December 22, 1924 - July 21, 2015 Russell Hiroyuki Yamaga was born in 1924 in Lodi, California to Japanese immigrant parents. He attended a segregated Oriental school in Courtland, CA until 1942. As a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, he and his family were sent to Merced Assembly Center and then to the Amache Japanese Internment Camp in Colorado. While in camp he was the high school yearbook editor and obtained the rank of Eagle Scout, as has his son and grandson. He attended Cornell University during the war and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Soil Research. He went on to obtain a Master's degree in Agriculture and Mechanical Arts with research focusing on radioactive iodine and phosphorus soil and finally a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy in 1955. While he owned multiple pharmacies (the Acary Drug Co.), he met and married the love of his life, Tamiko. Russ and Tami moved to Orange County in 1962. The Japanese-American community in Orange County was the focus of his life. He was instrumental in bringing Japanese movies to the Broadway Theatre in Santa Ana on Tuesday nights in the late 60's. In 1970, Russell was the charter President of the Orange Coast Optimist Club (OCO) of Costa Mesa which organized and installed the Japanese garden at the Costa Mesa City Hall which remains today. The club was also responsible for the tree planting of the Costa Mesa Community Center, and he initiated many youth programs for the Japanese-American community which included Kendo, Ikebana, golf, youth bowling, baseball and basketball teams, fishing derbies, and speech contests. Russell also served as Optimist International's Lieutenant Governor for the Southwest District and was a 3-term President and long term officer of the Southeast Youth Organization (SEYO) which is a Japanese-American basketball league in Orange County. While president of SEYO, he helped found the Megalopolis Basketball Tournament which continues to bring Japanese basketball leagues throughout Southern California together. Russell helped to revive the Nisei Relays in Orange County, served on the Board of Directors with the Orange County Japanese American Citizens' League and the Tree Trimming Art (Uyeki) of America, was a founding member of the Orange Coast Gakuen Japanese Language School, and as a member of the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council he helped to initiate their participation in the annual City of Orange International Food Festival. He was recognized in 1997 as a Pioneer to the Japanese-American community for his "contributions for the benefit of all citizens" at the 57th Nisei Week Festival in Los Angeles. Russell's greatest passion was his family. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family on July 21, 2015. He is survived by his wife Tami; 4 children and their spouses- Ione and Norman, Marshall, Dory and Craig, Ardath and Mitch, and predeceased son, Wendell; 9 grandchildren Angeli, Ashley, Charissa, Christopher, Dariya, Megan, Neil, Tabitha, and Zachary; 4 siblings and their spouses -Lucky and Mary, Ken, Yoshi and Taku, Kazuko and Phillip and many nieces and nephews. Memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 1 at 1:30pm at Harbor Lawn, 1625 Geisler Ave, Costa Mesa. Please visit www.dignitymemorial.com to leave tributes or for more details.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from July 25 to July 27, 2015
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