My dear friends in Oregon, Vi and Clarence Omoto, whom I have known for approximately 60 years, were kind enough to spur a surprise 89th birthday party for me. (I met Vi and Clarence in the early 1950s at Christ Presbyterian Church in San Francisco.)

Vi contacted Editor Gwen Muranaka of The Rafu Shimpo and the two of them, along with Rafu staff members, planned a memorable and heartfelt celebration. It took weeks of dedication and labors of love for which I am so very grateful.

Early in May I was informed by Editor Gwen that we would be going out to lunch on the 15th to celebrate the graduation of a co-worker and also just for a change to have lunch in a restaurant.

On May 15, about 12:45 p.m., I was driven to a Japanese restaurant by Mario Reyes. We walked up to the restaurant, a door was opened by Michael Hirano-Culross, and lo and behold, people were standing facing me, blowing bubbles in the air and shouting, “SURPRISE, SURPRISE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAGGIE!”

I was absolutely in somewhat of a shock and momentarily could not move. Michael said, “Maggie, you looked like you saw Elvis Presley.” Gwen led me to the table and seated me. She then hung two beautiful leis, one made from orchids and another unique one made from red material (cloth), on me and wrapped a lemon-colored happi coat around me.

I then caught my breath. (It’s a good thing I have a strong heart.) As I glanced about the room, I could immediately feel that the entire room was filled with warmth and love and it brought tears of joy and gratitude.

Among the 31 who graciously attended were:

• The publisher of The Rafu Shimpo.

• The two executives of The Rafu Shimpo.

• The former editor of The Rafu Shimpo and the current editor and English staff members plus one member from the Japanese section.

• Four former employees of The Rafu Shimpo.

• The English-speaking pastor and the secretary of Union Church along with eight other church-member friends.

• My dear friends, Rev. Saburo Masada and his wife, Marion, came all the way from Fresno and assisted in many ways for the party. (Marion was my former roommate in San Francisco in the early 1950s before she married Sab.)

• It was an honor to have my former supervisor and now my dear friend, Dr. Carol Iu. What an unexpected and pleasant surprise to have her join us!

Four heartwarming and somewhat amusing incidents about my relationship with them were given by Editor Gwen Muranaka; Sports Editor Michael Hirano-Culross; a dear friend from Union Church, Lorry Arakaki; and Marion Masada, another dear friend.

I have never had a money tree donation at any of the many parties given to me. Now I know money grows on trees. THANK YOU to all of you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness and generosity.

The following evening, Friday, May 16, a friend took me to the Olive Garden restaurant for my birthday dinner in Culver City.

As I was being served a birthday dessert with two waiters singing “Happy Birthday,” a couple to my extreme right were being seated. After the two waiters left my table, the handsome man at the next table smilingly turned to me and said, “Happy Birthday.” I said, “Thank you, I’m 89 today.” He got up from his table and gave me a big hug. After returning to his table, he said, “I’m 67 and I sure hope IF I make it, I’ll look as good as you at 89.” I assured him he would.

Now ain’t that something being hugged by a complete and handsome stranger? I don’t think, however, his wife appreciated it, because she did not smile or wish me a happy birthday.

On Saturday, May 24, my niece planned a family birthday party. She, her husband and three children, my brother, sister-in-law, nephews and nieces got together at a restaurant in Santa Monica. It was operated and owned by Koreans but serving Japanese cuisine. The tempura dinner was very good. It was wonderful to get together with family on this special occasion.

My friends who attended the surprise birthday party told me how fortunate I was to work with such a GREAT boss and co-workers. They are right. I am treated like a “grandmother.” Whenever I need assistance, it is given without a moment’s hesitation. Their willingness and cooperation are greatly appreciated.

It was indeed the “Merry Month of May” with three birthday celebrations. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow! A very “Happy Belated Birthday” to others who may have had the same birthday as mine.



Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

The gathering at the surprise party in Little Tokyo. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
The gathering at the surprise party in Little Tokyo. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)




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