SAN FRANCISCO — Laura Takeuchi, finance director for Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach and long-time community leader and advocate, passed away suddenly on Aug. 1 from complications related to cancer.

“Laura was considered family at APILO. We will miss her so much because she was a wonderful, dedicated, and unselfish advocate of basic human dignity, welfare and respect,” reflected Don Bautista, chairperson of the APILO Board of Directors.

Laura Takeuchi (Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

At APILO, Takeuchi was not only involved in managing the finances of the organization but also headed the successful capital campaign that lead to the acquisition of the organization’s building in San Francisco.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Takeuchi was constantly active in the Asian and Japanese American communities. A role model as a female community leader, she placed great importance in mentoring young women in the community.

Over the years, she served on the boards of Kokoro Assisted Living, Alameda County Meals of Wheels, Kimochi, the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council, the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition (PAAWBAC), the Berkeley Japanese American Citizens League, the Diablo Japanese American Club, the Japanese American Religious Federation, Shin Wa Kai, and Nobirukai.

“Laura’s family was her community,” remembers Stephen Higashi, her longtime life’s partner. Before taking the finance position with APILO, the two were dedicated volunteers supporting the social justice services of the organization for many years.

With a long-standing commitment to services that promote the dignity and independence of seniors, Takeuchi helped develop and lead Japanese American Services of the East Bay as its long-serving executive director. Beyond providing vital social services, she helped organize the Shinennkai, an annual gathering of Northern California senior centers, and the Senior Appreciation Luncheon of San Francisco’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

“She was a positive force in our organization and our community,” reflected staff attorney Nikki Uyen Dinh.

“She has been a quiet presence, but a very warm and thoughtful colleague,” added Hyun-mi Kim, case management coordinator.

Takeuchi lent her artistic abilities to the community, including knitting, doll-making, and designing jewelry. Her work could be seen at many charity auctions benefiting Bay Area non-profits. On Fridays, she left the rigors and stresses of community work behind to volunteer at Ayers Elementary School in Concord.

“Laura was an dedicated community leader who was highly respected for her work, uniquely without egotism and self-promotion,” said Dean Ito Taylor, APILO executive director. “Laura’s work for the community will never be fully appreciated because she was not the type who drew attention to herself. But few could accomplish the work on behalf of the community that Laura accomplished in her shortened lifetime. We at API Legal Outreach were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Laura and will always miss her.”

Plans are under way to create a scholarship in Takeuchi’s name for young women committed to community work.

Takeuchi was president of the Diablo Japanese American Club. Fittingly, a celebration of her life with friends and family will be held where the club is based, at the Japanese American Religious and Cultural Center, 3165 Treat Blvd. in Concord, on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 3 p.m.

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  1. I was so shocked and sad to hear of Laura’s passing. When I started working in Little Tokyo more than 10 years ago, I was a recent college grad and getting to know my job and the broader JA community across California. It was nice to see a female community leader in action. She was always very encouraging, but also firm with me when I needed it! And I will forever remember her with knitting needles — she was always knitting funky scarves while participating in meetings…