Chizuru (Chiz) Nakaji Boyea passed away peacefully at home on Nov. 21, 2021, at the age of 101.
Boyea was born on Dec. 12, 1919 in Terminal Island, a thriving fishing village in East San Pedro, to Sadahyaku Nakaji, a fishing fleet captain, and Chiyeno (Seko), a homemaker.
Boyea attended school in East San Pedro, where she learned English in kindergarten. She was a brilliant student, achieving the highest national honors, and an excellent musician, performing piano recitals for the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music Arts.
After graduating from San Pedro High School, she moved to Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles City College (LACC), excelling in academics and taking fencing. After graduating from LACC, she travelled to Japan to study Japanese literature and calligraphy at Doshisha Women’s College in Kyoto.
As an incarceree at Manzanar, Boyea started the camp’s library collection, with just 17 books she brought with her. She recalled carrying some of her precious books, including one of Gilbert and Sullivan, when the family was forced to leave Terminal Island.
Boyea’s son Sean said: “Mom introduced my siblings and I to the love and importance of books (both fiction and non-fiction) at an early age. We all still fondly remember her reading to us as toddlers, especially her vivid expression of the various characters in the books.”
As a 10th-grader, Boyea had written a report on Althea Warren, the City of Los Angeles head librarian. While at Manzanar, she led the initiative to establish a library and contacted Warren. As a result, the city donated thousands of books to the Manzanar Library. There was at least one regular City library branch that was closed during that time, which ended up being a vital source of books for Manzanar.
In August 1945, Boyea and Sam Ishikawa helped students find placement at prominent colleges on the East Coast through the student relocation program.
After leaving Manzanar, Boyea relocated to the East Coast herself, receiving her Masters of Library Science degree from Syracuse University and studying social sciences at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She also met her husband-to-be, playwright and drama critic Samuel (Sam) A. Boyea, at the New School.
Boyea held librarian positions at prominent institutions including Sarah Lawrence College, New York Academy of Medicine, New York University Medical School, New York Public Library, and Consumers Union.
Moving to California in 1958, she began her 25-year career at the Long Beach Public Library and ultimately was promoted to lead the library’s Art Department. Numerous library patrons, especially students, have expressed appreciation for her knowledge, resourcefulness, and encouragement.
Boyea was a fixture at gatherings of the Terminals Islanders and the Wakayama Kenjinkai, alongside her childhood friend Kisae Sato. In 2019, Sato and Boyea both marked their 100th birthdays as well as 95 years of friendship.
She is survived by five children, Aki Elizabeth, Sean Kenichi, Paul Hiroshi, Shivaun Mitsuye, and Bruce Saburo; 14 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; many relatives and friends.