March 17, 1920 – November 25, 2021
Mary Yoshimoto was born on March 17, 1920 in Oregon and lived in Crane, Oregon; Rogeston, Idaho; Sage, Wyoming; and Notus, Idaho. Mary was the oldest of the 6 children of the late Yasutaro and Shigeyo Kawahara of Okayama Ken. Her father worked as a foreman for the Union Pacific.
She lost her mother in 1934 and was sent to Ichinomiya, Okayama, Japan with her siblings to be raised by her aunt. At the age of 16, her aunt arranged for Mary to marry 20-year-old Jack Shigeru Mayeda, a Kibei Nisei from Oregon. They were married in Okayama.
In 1937, they returned to Portland to start a laundry business. Jack worked at the sawmill and Mary worked tirelessly running the laundry business.
She had two children, daughter Norma Jean in 1938 and son Junior in 1940.
When the war broke out, they were first sent to the Minidoka Concentration Camp in Idaho and then to the Tule Lake Concentration Camp in California.
Mary did an admirable job of raising her 2 children for 3 years while her husband was sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico and never saw him again until 1945 when the war ended and they were released from camp.
Her husband Jack decided to return to Japan. They travelled on the General Gordon naval ship. They went to live with her mother-in-law and brother-in-law’s family in Miyawake, Okayama.
Soon they moved away and both Mary & Jack went to work on an Army post. She worked as a telephone operator and eventually became a supervisor.
She also taught English pronunciation and conversation at a boys high school. 2 boys, Nobuya “Phil” Itano and Toshiaki “Dick” Marumoto, claimed her as their “big sister” o’ne chan, and they became life-long friends for over 50 years.
In 1945, Mary and Jack divorced. Mary and daughter Norma Jean moved to Kure, where Mary had been transferred.
In 1951, they returned to the states and settled in Salt Lake City, Utah, where her father and brother lived. She worked as a waitress and then as a live-in domestic helper.
In 1952, Mary married Harry Yoshimoto and had a daughter, Susan Gail, in 1953.
In 1955, Mary and her family moved to Los Angeles and Mary worked as a nanny to several families in the Crenshaw area.
Eventually, she cared for her granddaughter Tricia and grandson Ryan for many years.
She played the piano and loved to dance to big band music, listen to jazz such as Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Stan Kenton, MJQ, June Christy, Ella, Rosemary Clooney and the Four Freshmen. Mary also bowled at Holiday Bowl with her family and friends.
Mary eventually moved into Keiro Assisted Living in Boyle Heights and then to Kei-Ai Health Care in Lincoln Heights. She lived there for over 10 years. The staff at Keiro/Kei-Ai took very good care of her. She passed away peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her family on 11/25/2021, Thanksgiving Day, at the age of 101!
Mary is survived by her daughter, Norma Jean (Masao) Yamashita; granddaughter, Tracie (Corey) Dye; grandson, Christopher (Marian) Yamashita, Tricia Tsu; great-grandchildren, McKen-Z Turner and Brendan Leong.
Predeceased by son, Junior; daughter, Susan Tsu; grandson, Ryan Tsu; sister, Geneva; brother, Melvin.
Private memorial was held on Friday, 12/17/2021 at the Kubota Mortuary “Chapel.”