Russell Hiroyuki Yamaga
Harbor Lawn-Mt. Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary
1625 Gisler Ave
Costa Mesa, CA
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 to leave tributes or for more details.
Published by Los Angeles Times from Jul. 25 to Jul. 27, 2015.
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Funeral services provided by:
Harbor Lawn-Mt. Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary
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4 Entries
Praying for friends to comfort you,
Faith to uphold you, and Loving memories to carry you through
Karin Renda
August 1, 2015
Mr. Yamaga was a tremendous force in the establishment of Orange Coast Gakuen Japanese Language School. Today, OCG is a leader in Japanese language schools, recognized for our innovative teaching methods. If not for Mr. Yamaga's business savvy and leadership, the school would not have gotten off the ground. We are deeply sadden by his loss. On behalf of the current OCG board, I would like to express our deepest condolences to Tami Yamaga and to the Yamaga family for their loss.
Shoko Araki
July 31, 2015
Our deepest condolences to Lucky and Mary Yamaga and Yamaga Family. Unfortunately we are unable to attend the Memorial Service due to our trip to Salt Lake City. In Gashho, Mits and Sachi Mizutani
July 27, 2015
Early morn, up before dawn,
They come to Harbor Lawn,
To honor this man of many years,
All his beloved shed many tears.
Henry Lake
July 26, 2015
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