The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is saddened by the recent passing of Tomio Ito, who served as a member of the museum’s Board of Governors from 1996–2014.
Ito’s parents, Gonsaku and Mine, came from Yokkaichi, Japan, to California in 1918 in search of a prosperous life. They eventually settled in Venice, where Tomio was born in 1924. He learned English and Japanese, worked on the farm, and attended Gardena High School, but his mother wanted him to obtain his higher education in Japan to learn more about his parents’ homeland.
In January 1941, Ito traveled to Japan to finish high school and became stuck in Japan when the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor. His family’s farm equipment was confiscated and relatives in California were incarcerated in U.S. concentration camps.
After the war, he finished college in Japan and returned to California to start anew and to raise a family. He settled in Westminster and began a strawberry farm, which was widely recognized throughout the Japanese American community.
An active leader in the community, Ito and his wife, Chizuko, had five children. He and his family have been longtime supporters of JANM.
“Tomio was a remarkable man and community leader who exemplified the importance of service and giving back to the community,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM. “He was a pillar of support for many Japanese American organizations. His generous spirit, calm presence, and sage leadership will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.”