August 28, 1940 – May 7, 2023

Dr. Norito Hasegawa was a husband, father and brother and lived in Orange, Calif. for over 50 years. He had a dental practice for over 40 years in Anaheim, Calif., and was also a globally recognized orchidist and American Orchid Society judge, receiving approximately 1,400 awards for his new hybrids, grown orchids and displays at orchid shows around the world.

Beginning his legacy and impact in the orchid world in 1968, he began creating new breeds of orchids, from Cymbidiums, Cattleyas and ultimately specializing in Paphiopedilums. He registered at least 22 new hybrids beginning in 1982, and 260 registered under his orchid company Paphanatics Unlimited that he co-owned with Dr. Harold Koopowitz. He also authored a book with Dr. Koopowitz, “Novelty Slipper Orchids: Breeding and Cultivating Paphiopedilum Hybrids,” in 1991. He served as a judge for the American Orchid Society (AOS), training and mentoring innumerous new judges around the world over the years. He served as the vice chairman AOS Judging Committee from 1988 through 1992, and completed two terms as a trustee of the AOS from 1992 through 1997. He was named an emeritus judge in both the American Orchid Society and the Cymbidium Society of America (CSA), an elite status given to judges for dedication and commitment. Norito was honored with numerous awards over the years including the AOS Award for Excellence in Hybridizing in 2007, the Ernest Hetherington Orchid Digest Medal of Honor in 2009 for his role as an “extraordinary orchid hybridizer, commercial grower, and lecturer for his contributions to the orchid world,” and the CSA Jack Hudlow Medal in 2012, which is the highest honor bestowed by the CSA for a lifetime of achievement. According to Brandon Tam, the orchid specialist for the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, he also played a key role in appraising the S. Robert Weltz Orchid Collection. George Hatfield, past president of the AOS and president elect of the World Orchid Trust, shared that “Norito was a giant in the orchid community, appreciated for sharing his vast knowledge of orchids and spreading good will around the world.”

Norito was born on August 28, 1940, in El Monte, Calif., the seventh child out of eight born to Ginjiro Hasegawa and Yuki Kataoka. He lived in El Monte until President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, calling for the incarceration of everyone of Japanese descent. The Hasegawas were first sent to the Pomona Assembly Center in May 1942, then were at the Heart Mountain Incarceration Camp in Wyoming from August 1942 through October 1945. They returned to Puente, Calif., where his mother passed away in March 1946. They moved to Santa Ana in 1946. Norito graduated from Garden Grove High School in 1958, earned his Bachelor’s of Science in entomology from California State University at Long Beach. He was a researcher at the University of California at Riverside before being accepted to Dental School at the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1967 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery and was in private practice in Anaheim from 1971 until his retirement in 2008. He met Joyce Kuniko Kanase through the Young Buddhist Association in 1958 and they married on July 3, 1965, in Los Angeles. Lisa Masako was born in October 1969, followed by Todd Yoichi in 1970 and Mark Mitsuo in February 1979.

He is survived by his widow, Joyce Kuniko Hasegawa; three children, Lisa Masako (Sandy Lee), Todd Yoichi and Mark Mitsuo Hasegawa; two sisters, Miyako Tachiki and Katsuyo (Taka) Tanaka; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ginjiro & Yuki; and siblings, Wataru, Tomoyuki, Eruko, Roy Shunichi and James Fujio Hasegawa.

A private family service will be held at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo on June 17, 2023. The family is working with the American Orchid Society to create an award to honor Dr. Hasegawa’s legacy. They request that donations in lieu of flowers be made in memory of Dr. Hasegawa here:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *