Mie Okamura Frautschi
March 6, 1942 – June 29, 2020
Mie Frautschi (born Okamura) died suddenly and unexpectedly of an aortic aneurysm on June 29, 2020. Mie was born and grew up in Yokohama, Japan. She attended Yokohama Eiwa, a Christian high school, where American teacher Carolyn Bowen (later Carolyn Francis) inspired her to master English, setting her life on its course. After graduating from Tsuda College in Tokyo, she worked at a Tokyo bank managing English-Japanese correspondence for the president of the bank. When Air France conducted a search for Japanese flight attendants in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Mie won a coveted spot and went on to work the Tokyo-Paris route. On one of these trips she met Steven Frautschi, a Caltech physics professor. They married in 1967 and spent the next 53 years together living in Pasadena, California.
Mie and Steve had two daughters, Laura Shinobu Frautschi and Jennifer Shizuka Frautschi. Mie had strong ideas about the importance of language and music in education. She raised her daughters to be fluent in Japanese and, after a family sabbatical in Paris, she sent one of the girls each spring to live with her fellow Air France alumna Keiko Gautier’s family and attend public school in southern France. At Mie’s instigation, each of the girls began studying violin at age three using the Suzuki method, which at the time had just arrived in the United States. Both Laura and Jennifer have gone on to have successful careers as concert violinists.
After her daughters were grown, Mie worked as an interpreter for Japanese businessmen who came to the US to buy American products, as well as for the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. She had a vivacious personality and loved to gather people together. When not working, she delighted her many friends with her gourmet Japanese/Chinese/French cooking, Ikebana flower arrangements, and enthusiastic tennis playing. Over the years, Mie continued to travel widely to visit her daughters and far-flung friends. She also hosted the children of various friends from around the globe for long-term stays so that they could attend school in the Pasadena area to develop their English language skills.
Mie and Steve spent many summers in Aspen, Colorado, where Steve worked at the Aspen Physics Institute and Laura and Jennifer participated in the Aspen Music Festival. They eventually donated their Aspen condominium to Caltech, and the proceeds were used to construct a large rehearsal room for musical ensembles on the Caltech campus that opened in 2019.
Mie is survived by brother Nampei Okamura and sister Izumi Sawajiri in Japan, husband Steven Frautschi in Pasadena, daughters Laura Frautschi and Jennifer Frautschi in New York City, and grandchildren Mirabai Smoot, Hudson Smoot, Aya Smoot and Siena Ruske.
Mie’s ashes will be interred in the Frautschi family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Madison, Wisconsin. Her memorial service has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.