George Hiromu “Pakkai” Iwahashi
October 11, 1920 – January 1, 2020
On January 01, 2020, George Hiromu Iwahashi, 99 year old Fresno-born Kibei Nisei, quietly passed away. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 01, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. at the Lisle Funeral Home, 1605 L Street, Fresno, CA 93721. Phone number: (559) 237-6185.
George was preceded by his wife, Yasuyo Josephine. He is survived by his children, Gordon (Elizabeth Law), Paul, and Dean (Dorothy Myers), four grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. He also has relatives in California and in Wakayama, Japan.
George was born on October 11, 1920 to Naogusu and Kasashi Iwahashi in Fresno. When he was very young, the family returned to Wakayama, Japan, where his brother, Mitsuo, was born. George graduated from high school in Japan; and soon after, when he was seventeen or eighteen, he returned to America by himself. He stayed with his uncle and aunt, Hisagusu and Yasuye Okada, and their family outside of Fresno. George worked as a farm laborer, which he described as very hard and hot work. He moved into town where he washed dishes and attended Edison High School in order to learn English.
At the beginning of the War when the Japanese were no longer allowed to live in Fresno, George and many Nikkei moved to nearby Reedley, where they heard they would be able to find work. Some Nikkei came from as far away as Los Angeles with the hope of finding a job.
From Reedley, he and the other Nikkei were taken to and interned at Poston, Ariz. George was the head cook in one of the mess halls; and there he met his future wife, Yasuyo Josephine Matsushita, who was from Terminal Island. Yasuyo worked in the same mess hall.
As an outspoken No-No Boy, George was moved to Santa Fe, NM and later to Bismarck, ND. From there, he eventually made his way back to Fresno at the end of the War.
Upon their return, George and other Nikkei lived at the old Fresno Buddhist Church. He later worked at and eventually owned the Tokiwa Restaurant. George was very proud of Tokiwa, which was located in Fresno’s once-vibrant Chinatown. It was a small restaurant that was very popular with many Nikkei and Japanese nationals in Fresno and in the surrounding communities and farms. The restaurant’s customers also included non-Japanese. His wife, Yasuyo Josephine, worked as the waitress; and his children and grandchildren also worked in the restaurant. George cooked both Chinese and Japanese food. His servings were large, the food was delicious, and the prices were reasonable. With his high energy, George was able to cook several dishes and talk to and joke with customers at the same time.
In 1998, he retired to take care of Yasuyo, his wife. At that time the restaurant was sold. Unfortunately, most of his recipes were not passed down.
Tokiwa holds many stories and memories, both happy and otherwise. And George will always be remembered for his unlimited energy and his outgoing personality. His favorite song was “You Are My Sunshine”.
By the way, George was.named “Pakkai” by his Nisei friends because when he was young he was skinny like a sparerib.