Following, in alphabetical order, are some of the notable individuals who passed away during the past year. The Rafu Shimpo extends deep sympathies to all those who suffered loss in 2021. Our hearts are with you.
Jacqueline Avant, 81, on Dec. 1. A philanthropist known for her support of Japanese art and community in Southern California. Wife of music executive Clarence Avant.
Wilma Chan, 72, on Nov. 3. Member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and former representative of Oakland in the State Assembly.
Sonny Chiba, 82, on Aug. 19. The actor dazzled action movie fans around the world with his karate and other martial arts techniques.
Jeff Folick, 73, on Aug. 19. A healthcare executive and an active leader in the Japanese American community, he was president of Orange County Buddhist Church and a board member of Nisei Week, Keiro and JACCC.
Jack Fujimoto, 93, on Nov. 26. A lifelong administrator at California community colleges, promoter of Japanese-language instruction, and author of a book about Sawtelle Japantown.
Hiroshi Fujisaki, 85, on Oct. 10. A retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, he presided over high-profile cases, including O.J. Simpson’s civil trial.
Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, 96, on Feb. 11. A health care professional, activist, public speaker and author, she was revered by many on Vashon Island, Wash.
Al Harrington, 85, on Sept. 21. He played Detective Ben Kokua on the original “Hawaii Five-0” and had a recurring role on the reboot.
Sugako Hashida, 95, on April 4. She was a renowned Japanese scriptwriter best known for the internationally popular TV drama series “Oshin.”
Seigo Hayashi, 78, on Nov. 13. Founder of Hayashi & Associates, a vocational rehabilitation company, and co-founder of Asian Rehabilitation Services Inc.
Susana Higuchi, 73, on Dec. 8. Ex-wife of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, she became an opposition legislator after the divorce.
Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama, 91, on Sept. 15. A star athlete in baseball and football at Fresno State, he played for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan’s Central League and was an All-Star twice.
Alvin Ing, 89, on July 31. A pioneer Asian American actor and singer and an advocate for AAPIs in the arts. His credits include the original “Flower Drum Song” on Broadway.
Lloyd Inui, 91, on Sept. 28. He helped establish the Asian and Asian American Studies Program at Cal State Long Beach and was an expert advisor to the Japanese American National Museum.
Tatsuo Itoh, 80, on March 4. Distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. He led breakthroughs in using the microwave and millimeter-wave frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum for electronics and communication technologies.
Ken Iwagaki, 95, on July 4. A founding member of Japanese American Museum of San Jose and leader of other San Jose Japantown organizations.
Maki Kaji, 69, on Aug. 10. The creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku whose life’s work was spreading the joy of puzzles.
Sayaka Kanda, 35, on Dec. 18. A popular singer like her mother, Seiko Matsuda, she was known for voicing Anna in the Japanese dub of Disney’s “Frozen.”
Lillian Sakaye Kimura, 79, on Feb. 17. She was associate executive director of the YWCA and the first woman to be elected national president of JACL.
Taky Kimura, 96, on Jan. 7. One of Bruce Lee’s top students and closest friends, he was a renowned martial arts instructor in Seattle and appeared in several films and TV shows.
Tommy Lasorda, 93, on Jan. 7. The long-time manager of the Dodgers introduced Hideo Nomo to Major League Baseball in the mid-1990s.
Corky Lee, 73, on Jan. 27. A New York-based photojournalist, he covered subjects from the Asian American Movement of the 1970s to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Harry Low, 90, on Dec. 9. San Francisco’s first Asian American judge, a justice of the California Court of Appeal, and California’s 38th insurance commissioner.
Janice Mirikitani, 80, on July 29. Former poet laureate of San Francico, a renowned poet and author, and leader of social programs at Glide Memorial Church.
Gary Miyatake, 69, on Dec. 29, 2020. Third-generation photographer of the famed Miyatake family, he established Toyo Photography in Gardena. His portrait of Cesar Chavez was acquired by the Smithsonian.
Walter Mondale, 93, on April 19. The former vice president was U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton.
Roy Murotsune, 95, on May 28. He ran a gas station in San Jose Japantown before and after WWII. His family later established Roy’s Station, a coffee shop, on the site.
Wataru Namba, 94, on June 26. A Japanese American survivor of Hiroshima, he shared his experiences in order to educate the public about the realities of nuclear weapons.
Bill Nishimura, 101, on Oct. 19. Labeled a troublemaker for standing up for Japanese Americans’ rights during WWII, he was interned at Tule Lake, Santa Fe and Crystal City.
Keizo Norimoto, 88, on Feb. 27. A Buddhist minister in Los Angeles and Fresno, and an author and columnist for Rafu and other newspapers under the pen name Ippei Nomoto.
Chiyomi Ogawa, 97, on June 16. She was featured in an exhibit and film about the wedding dress she wore in Manzanar, which was worn by five other brides. The story of the dress was also the story of the JA incarceration and resettlement.
Sally Osaki, 88, on Jan. 30. The first Japanese American woman to work in San Francisco politics and government, she was on the staffs of Mayors Dianne Feinstein and Art Agnos.
Robert Rusky, 78, on Nov. 22. He and his wife Karen Kai, both lawyers, were part of the legal team that successfully reopened Fred Korematsu’s WWII Supreme Court case.
Eunice Sato, 99, Feb. 12. First female mayor of Long Beach, first female Asian American mayor of a major American city.
Jakucho Setouchi, 99, on Nov. 9. A Buddhist nun and one of Japan’s best-known authors famous for novels depicting passionate women and her translation of “The Tale of Genji” into modern language.
Paul Kunio Shiba, 92, on July 26. A leader of many Southern California community organizations, he received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, for enhancing Japanese-language education in the U.S.
Kenzi Shiokava, 82, on June 18. A noted sculptor from Brazil who relocated to Los Angeles, he was featured in “Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo” at JANM.
Stephen Sondheim, 91, on Nov. 26. Lyricist and composer whose musicals included “Pacific Overtures,” which provided opportunities for Asian American actors and singers.
George Taniguchi, 94, on March 1. Believed to be the nation’s first Japanese American jockey, he later became a highly respected Southern California racing official.
Sunao Tsuboi, 96, on Oct. 24. A Hiroshima survivor who made opposing nuclear weapons the message of his life, including in a meeting with President Obama.
Holly Yasui, 67, on Oct. 31. Daughter of civil rights hero Minoru Yasui, she was a tireless advocate for preserving the memory of her father’s landmark Supreme Court case.