Masako " Miki" (Ito) Nagata

December 13, 1931March 10, 2018
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Long-time Oceanside resident Masako “Miki” (Ito) Nagata was born in Encinitas, California on December 13, 1931 and passed away on March 10, 2018.

She grew up in Leucadia and lived there until 1942 when she and her family were relocated to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. She was a California Scholarship Federation Seal Bearer when she graduated from San Dieguito High in 1949. Although she was accepted to the University of California at Berkeley, Miki opted to stay in the North County area and earned her AA degree from Mira Costa College. She married her life-long partner, Mitsuru “Mits” Nagata; they eloped in Las Vegas on April 25, 1952 and they were married for almost 66 years. Their first daughter, Gale, was born in 1955, but sadly died due to serious heart complications three months later. They went on to have three more daughters: Joyce, Janet, and Pat. Miki was a devoted wife and mother, active in community organizations and activities such as Girl Scouts (Girl & Leader), PTA, Oceanside Library Board of Trustees, Mira Costa College Advisory Board and Armed Forces YMCA Foundation. She enjoyed working for the California Highway Patrol as a State Chairperson for many years.

In 1999, she was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy, a rare neurological disorder, which she battled in the same way she lived her life, with courage, tenacity, and resolve. She had a strong will to live, but ultimately succumbed to complications of the disease and passed away peacefully with family at her side.

She is predeceased by daughters Gale and Joyce; survived by her husband Mits, daughters Janet Yumen and Pat Tchang, six grandchildren, and her sister Haruko Meinhardt.


  • Celebration of Life Friday, March 23, 2018

Masako " Miki" (Ito) Nagata

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Rosemary Manjarrez

March 21, 2018

I am so sorry to hear of Miki's (that is the nickname she used) passing. I worked with her for many years when she was a state chairperson for the California Highway Patrol. She was a wonderful, caring & highly intelligent woman. She was one that encouraged me to get involved with the Girl Scouts. She was a great mentor to me, and set a great example of how a person can overcome life's hardships. Although we had not seen each other for many years, especially after she became ill, she was always in my thoughts and heart. My condolences and prayers are with you, her family.
Bless you and rest in peace Miki.


Grandma's Senior Picture 1949


Grandma with her Jazzercise friends


Family picture in Oceanside


Grandpa and Grandma in Las Vegas


Grandma as a baby with "Dodo" (Josephine Yoch)


Grandma at 10 months old



Below is the obituary that was in the Union Tribune:

Long-time Oceanside resident Masako “Miki” (Ito) Nagata was born in Encinitas, California on December 13, 1931 and passed away on March 10, 2018.

She grew up in Leucadia and lived there until 1942 when she and her family were relocated to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. She was a California Scholarship Federation Seal-Bearer when she graduated from San Dieguito High in 1949. Although she was accepted to the University of California at Berkeley, Miki opted to stay in the North County area and earned her AA degree from Mira Costa College (Originally Oceanside-Carlsbad College). She married her life-long partner, Mitsuru “Mits” Nagata; they eloped to Las Vegas on April 25, 1952 and they were married for almost 66 years. Their first daughter, Gale, was born in 1955, but sadly died due to serious heart complications three months later. They went on to have three more daughters: Joyce, Janet, and Pat. Miki was a devoted wife and mother, active in community organizations and activities such as Girl Scouts (Girl & Leader), PTA, Oceanside Library Board of Trustees, Mira Costa College Advisory Board and Armed Forces YMCA Foundation. She enjoyed working for the California Highway Patrol as a State Chairperson for many years.

In 1999, she was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy, a rare neurological disorder, which she battled in the same way she lived her life, with courage, tenacity, and resolve. She had a strong will to live, but ultimately succumbed to complications of the disease and passed away peacefully with family at her side.

She is predeceased by daughters Gale and Joyce; survived by her husband Mits, daughters Janet Yumen and Pat Tchang, six grandchildren, and her sister Haruko Meinhardt.

Here is what was shared in the program at her Celebration of Life:

Masako “Miki” (Ito) Nagata was born in Encinitas, California on December 13, 1931. Her parents owned a plant nursery and her childhood was spent frolicking around Encinitas with her friends. She loved the beach and remembered floating on an inner tube among seals. In 1942 she and her family were relocated to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. After World War II they returned to Encinitas.

Masako was an athlete and a scholar. She lettered in several sports and she was a California Scholarship Federation Seal Bearer when she graduated from San Dieguito High in 1949. Although she was accepted to UC Berkeley, she opted to stay in the North County area and earned her AA from Mira Costa College (The college originally was called Oceanside-Carlsbad College.) She married her life-long partner, Mitsuru “Mits” Nagata; they eloped to Las Vegas on April 25, 1952 and were married for almost 66 years. Mits was stationed in the “territory” of Hawaii when he was in the Army. While in Hawaii she worked at a used car agency where she learned to speak pidgin English and was given the nickname “Miki”. She gave birth to her first daughter Gale in 1955, but sadly Gale died due to serious heart complications. She went on to have three more daughters: Joyce, Janet, and Pat.

She was a devoted wife and mother, active in community organizations and activities such as Girl Scouts (Girl and Leader), Friends of the Library, Mira Costa Advisory Board, and the Armed Forces YMCA Foundation. She enjoyed working for the California Highway Patrol as a State Chairperson for many years.

Masako was vibrant, vivacious and had many interests. She loved musicals, parades, fireworks, Disneyland and gambling in Vegas. She also enjoyed taking Jazzercise classes in Carlsbad. She dreamt of getting to the bottom of the Grand Canyon but her ride on the mule took her about half way before she had to be flown out on a helicopter. (That mule ride down is one of the most grueling in North America.) Her last several years were spent living in Chula Vista with Mits, her daughter Janet and family.

In 1999 she was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy, a rare neurological disorder, which she battled in the same way she lived her life, with courage, tenacity, and resolve. She had a strong will to live, but ultimately succumbed to the disease and passed away peacefully with family at her side.

She is predeceased by daughters Gale and Joyce; survived by her husband Mits, daughters Janet Yumen and Pat Tchang, her sister Haruko Meinhardt, and six grandchildren: Matthew Maguire, Margaret Maguire, Christopher Yumen, Kristi Hansen, Ryan Kwan, and Kiley Tchang.

Here is the tribute that Pat and Janet shared at her Celebration of Life:


I’m Pat, I’m the youngest daughter of Mits and Miki. I thank you so much for being here today to honor my mother and celebrate her life. Our Aloha theme is because we think she left a legacy of love and fun and she just loved each one of you and loved people in general. I’d like to share some memories of my mom with you today.

I used to talk on the phone with my mom every single day. When I looked at my cell phone it said, “connected” and that’s exactly how I felt about her. We had a very strong bond and connection. One of the symptoms of my mom’s disease — which is called Multiple Systems Atrophy (a neurological disorder) — was that her voice became weak. So there came a point when she could no longer talk on the phone because I could not hear her. So those phone calls ended, but she was once very vibrant and active. And with each decline in her disease, she just graciously and courageously adapted, and she just kept going.

When she was not able to eat enough food, her weight dropped to 86 pounds and her bones stuck out and she looked like a war refugee. She was not wild about getting a feeding tube, but she decided to have the surgery because she wanted to keep living. She had such a zest for life. So for a time, she was not able to eat at all and one day she said, “The one thing I really miss eating is sandwiches.” I asked, “What kind of sandwich?” She said, any kind of sandwich, she just missed eating sandwiches. So she worked with a speech therapist for several sessions and one of her homework assignments was to bring food to eat — believe it or not — so she would bring cheesecake or cake. After working with that speech therapist for several sessions she was able to eat for a couple of years and, indeed, she had some sandwiches.

So when she got her feeding tube, I asked her, “Doesn’t this just make you mad? Doesn’t this just frustrate you?” And she looked at me with that you-silly-girl look and she said, “It doesn’t do any good to get mad!” It’s like, “Okay, Mom.”

It would be really difficult to talk about one of my parents and not talk about the other and I was often struck by the fact — and I still am — that they’re very opposite. My mom loved watching parades, she loved watching people, she loved watching fireworks and she loved Disneyland. She loved watching parades, people and fireworks at Disneyland. So case in point, one year after working all day in the packing shed, my mom decided that she wanted to go to the 4th of July fireworks. For whatever reason, I was the only one who wanted to go and so we went to the Oceanside Pier and parked near a lumberyard, I remember. We watched a spectacular fireworks display off the pier; it was wonderful. When the fireworks were over, I hustled Mom to the car because we were two women, and it wasn’t the best area of Oceanside. So the next morning, we hear on the news that, after we left, a train had pulled in and it had blocked people from leaving from the pier side and had blocked the police from getting to the people who were rioting on the other side. She looked at me and she said, “Why did you make me leave so early? We missed all the action!” And she was serious!

Our vacations growing up consisted of driving somewhere, usually for a couple of days. My parents were kind of corny, in a charming sort of way. When one of them would take over the driving behind the wheel, they would sing “Back in the Saddle Again.” Dad was really into those Westerns. I remember on one trip we were passing a cornfield and my mom and dad actually had a disagreement whether the corn was “as high as an elephant’s eye” — from “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma. Yeah, they’re a little bit weird.

If you know my dad, you know that he’s a chronic worrier and my mom just kind of took things in stride. She once gave Dad this quote, you may have heard of from Wolfgang Riebe, and it goes like this: “There are only two things to worry about, either you are healthy or you are sick. If you are healthy, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you are sick there are only two things to worry about, either you will get well or you will die. If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you die there are only two things to worry about, either you will go to heaven or to hell. If you go to heaven, then there is nothing to worry about. And if you to go hell, you'll be so darn busy shaking hands with your friends you won't have time to worry.” Unfortunately, my dad still worries; it didn’t help at all.

For those of you who have known me for most of my life, you know that I was born with a hole in my heart. For the first year of my life, they did not know if it was operable. If it hadn’t been operable, my parents would have had to watch me die. But thankfully, when I was 16 months old, they took me to the Mayo Clinic where they had the world-renown children’s heart surgeon at the time. After my heart surgery, they were only allowed to visit me 5 minutes each hour. At that age, I didn’t understand what was happening and I was very angry. To show this displeasure, I tried to crawl out of the oxygen tent, I knocked the orange juice out of the nurse’s hand, and I tore out all of my stitches. For this, the surgeon nicknamed me “Tiger.” I was extremely fortunate that I had no physical limitations on my diet or activities after my surgery. When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me, “Your heart is better than everybody else’s because you had it fixed.” And I was never really quite sure if she was right, but I’ve done gymnastics, I’ve done full contact sparring with men in Tae Kwon Do — I wasn’t very good — and I have two children who are sitting over there. And I didn’t have any issues. I was so fortunate to have parents who did not limit my activities, but they encouraged me in whatever I did. I was a slow learner and it took me a long time to learn to tie my shoe, tell time, become proficient at reading and math — we’re not even going to talk about math. My mom was always patient, teaching me, and never letting me feel dumb. She always said to me, “You’re just a late bloomer.” Mom loved us unconditionally and she encouraged whatever interests we pursued. Both parents were always supportive in our activities and they were never overbearing. My sister Joyce would say, “They would pretty much show up, just to watch us breathe.” This is kind of true because I was on the rifle team in high school, and my mom would sit there and watch me shoot, but she didn’t have binoculars so she had no idea if I was hitting the target or not. So one day we had rifle team practice at 6:00 in the morning because that was the best time when the sun was hitting. It was out near Carpenter’s old junkyard — way out there. So Mom dropped me off, but after practice, she didn’t show up. So I walked to the pay phone and I called my Auntie Althea, because our phone line was busy and I couldn’t get through. I tried several times. I said, “Auntie Althea, can you just keep calling my mom until you get through to her and let her know that I’m waiting for her?” So she said, sure. When she finally got through to my mom, my mom said, “Oh no, Pat’s sleeping in her bed.” She completely forgot about dropping me off — I think that was the only time, so, pretty good.

I’d like to talk about my son, Ryan. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 16 months old. When he was diagnosed, my mother dropped everything she was doing including a class reunion she had worked on for months and months. She came up to the Bay Area to help us learn how to take care of a child with Diabetes. She told us that she would gladly trade places with Ryan; she would take the disease so that he wouldn’t have to deal with it. She was constantly researching about easier and better ways — and less painful ways — for blood glucose testing and shots. Because my parents never limited my activities after my heart surgery, I knew that I wanted to raise Ryan as a child first and a diabetic second. I wanted him to feel that he could do just about anything that any other kid could do. So we went trick-or-treating, he played football (because he went to a highly academic school that didn’t have enough players), but he was a pretty proficient baseball player. He played on traveling teams and he played in the Junior Olympics.

Seven years ago, I discovered Zumba. I decided after I turned 50 that I wanted to become a certified instructor. I remembered that Mom used to love Jazzercise. She just got so much joy from doing Jazzercise. She inspired me, not just to become an instructor, but also to work with seniors and seniors who were less able-bodied like she was — because up until about 5 or 6 years ago, she could still move and interact. I feel that this is a section of the population who get overlooked. So I’m currently teaching two Zumba classes and six senior fitness classes. So like Mom said, I’m a really late bloomer. I experience great joy when I’m teaching and I’m so fortunate to do what I love.

One of the things I admired most about my parents is they had the rather arduous task of bridging two cultures. There was expectation and obligation put on them by their parents to never bring shame upon their family, and then there was the other side of watching their Caucasian counterparts and wanting to be like them. They managed to assimilate into American culture, while appeasing the cultural demands of their parents — which was no easy feat. In looking back, my mom and dad complement each other well. They were very devoted to each other. My dad would spend hours holding my mom’s hand next to her bedside. They were grateful for every day of life and they were grateful for every day they had each other. Next month would have marked their 66th wedding anniversary.

At this time, I just wanted to acknowledge my Auntie Haruko. This is my mom’s one and only sister and I guess my mom was about one year old and she decided she just wanted a sister. She prayed every night for a sister. Auntie came almost weekly to see mom and mom just really looked forward to those visits. You were so special to her.

I want to acknowledge Dave, my brother-in-law. Dave and Janet have lived with my parents for the last 8 years and Dave has just stepped in, in a multitude of ways, to support not only Janet, but my parents as well.

Finally, I want to talk about my sister Janet — in a good way, just this one time. Janet has kind of put her life on hold in a lot of respects. She’s made a lot of personal sacrifices. She’s managed doctor’s appointments and medications, meals, entertainment when they were able to go out to the San Diego Fair — whatever she could do to make their lives more joyful, she did. She just made everything run smoothly. Today, she worked tirelessly on this Celebration of Life and she wanted everything to be perfect. I think she came pretty close. With that, I’m going to hand it over to Janet.


I think we had one of the best moms ever. She wasn’t perfect, but she was pretty close. She wasn’t very demonstrative; she didn’t say, “I love you” a lot or give us a lot of hugs, but she showed us that she loved us in so many other ways. I never had any doubt that we were deeply loved. Some of that were the sacrifices that both Mom and Dad made to send us to college. They paid for all of our college education, and even provided a secondhand car so we could get to and from school. Because my mom married a farmer — the Nagata motto seemed to be: “Make hay while the sun shines” — and in Southern California, it shines a lot so that meant not very many vacations. In fact, vacations were usually driving one way as far as we could, spending the night, and driving home the next night. That was our vacation.

But because of that, my mom put us in Girl Scouts. With Girl Scouts we got to go backpacking down the Grand Canyon and canoeing down the Colorado River. Both Joyce and I went to the International Headquarters, Our Cabaña, in Mexico. We were able to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do. Later on, she was also a Girl Scout leader. She was a Girl Scout, herself, before, after and in the internment camp during World War II. Later, she would join a lot of these older women that would get together for reunions, and they’d talk about Girl Scouting, make crafts, and they would help some of the younger scouts. Sometimes all three of us girls would be on a camping trip at the same time. My mom was a good sport and so she would feed the horse, the two dogs, the seventeen cats, the canary and the fish while we were away. That wasn’t the easiest job to do, but she was willing to do it so that we could go to camp.

As Pat said, my mom would come to watch us breathe. I mean, if we were to receive any award, if there was anything that we were doing she would come. I especially remember her coming to watch me perform at halftime shows for the drill team. The reason that it stood out to me was because she’d be working in the packing shed all day sorting tomatoes and then she would run home, change her clothes, and come out just in time to see me perform.

As a grandma she was the same way. She attended hockey games, baseball games, ballet recitals, hula recitals, singing performances, and Color guard — whatever the grandkids were doing, she was there. She had lots of interests; my sister shared some of those. She also loved musicals, and so some of the music that we’re going to play during the slide show are from musicals that she enjoyed. She would take us to Orange County, all over San Diego, the Starlight Opera — to see musicals. One time she even took us to Hollywood Bowl to see Peter Pan. The reason why I remember that was because there was one part where they were saying, “Ok, Tinkerbell’s light is going out, but if you want her to come back to life then clap as hard as you can.” I was probably around 9 or 10 and I remember thinking, “This is kind of silly” but I see my mom over there clapping as hard as she can to make Tinkerbell come back to life! She was just like that; she was so full of energy and life.

The program mentions that my mom and dad eloped to Vegas. They didn’t tell us that they eloped for the first 25 years of my life because they didn’t want to give us an excuse to elope ourselves. But I actually got married kind of late, so she said, “Just get married already! I don’t care if you elope.” Before she told us, she was telling her friend, “Ugh, I’ve got to tell my kids that we eloped,” and her friend said, “Oh, they’ll think it’s so romantic! You’ve got to tell them.” So they sat us down and said, “We’ve got something to tell you,” and they told us that they had eloped. Because they had had a church wedding later on we only knew about that anniversary. When they told us, we looked at them and said, “What else have you been lying to us about?” And because she enjoyed going to Vegas and gambling and having fun and seeing the shows she decided in 2014 there was going to be one last hoorah to Vegas. So we took two vans, two caregivers, two sisters, my dad, my husband, and a boatload of stuff — I mean, a pile. She rode in the back of the mobility van and because it was modified it was a little bumpy. She didn’t really like the bumpy ride back there. After we came back, she looked at my dad and said, “Next time, I want to go by limousine.” And my dad was like, “This time almost killed me. We are not going again.”

She was just a fun person — she enjoyed people, she enjoyed parties, she enjoyed spending time with many of you. One thing she didn’t enjoy, though, was sorting tomatoes. She spent years sorting tomatoes but because of technology she was freed from that. Somehow she ended up working for the California Highway Patrol, first as a public person on the interview panels, and then as a chairperson. She loved that job and the people in the Highway Patrol so much she would have done that job for free. She was just really delighted. The only thing I don’t think she liked was filling in those scan tron forms because she had such bad eyesight.

My mom loved to laugh and the one thing that makes me the saddest is that I can’t remember her laugh; she had been silent for so long. But she wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself and she would say that her dad had bad eyes and good teeth, her mom had good eyes and bad teeth, and she ended up with bad eyes and bad teeth. So she had partial false teeth and she would take it out sometimes to scare my kids; I don’t know if they have scars from that or not.

She also didn’t mind laughing at her children — I think particularly me, I guess I was just laughable. With the Girls Scouts we went canoeing down the Colorado River — but before you could do that, you have to be certified. So she took me down to Mission Bay and there was an instructor there who was supposed to certify us. He said, “Get in the canoe by yourself, paddle across this inlet, then turn around and come back.” The problem was, there was a pretty strong current where I was paddling. Every time I tried to turn the canoe around it would push me back the other way. After three times of doing that, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be here forever.” So I just turned my body around and canoed back out of there. Unbeknownst to me, the instructor at the shore thought I was totally inept and mentioned that to my mother. As Pat would say, some people would be offended if someone said that about their child but my mom just burst out laughing. She thought that was so funny that she just kept telling that story. The other thing that was a big source of laughter was my Cal Poly ID. Some of you are young and don’t remember the time before bar codes where you can just swipe things. Well, the first ID I was given didn’t have a bar code, so they decided to take everyone’s ID photos again to include the bar code. They decided to take the pictures during finals and I had stayed up late the night before. The photographer said, “Look over here,” but I was tired and wasn’t really paying attention, so instead of turning my head to look, I just moved my eyes. And for whatever reason, the result was, I looked really awful. So when my mom wanted to see my ID I said, “No, you can’t see it because you’re going to laugh,” but she promised me several times that she wouldn’t laugh. When I finally let her see my ID, she took one look at it and of course she burst out laughing. But to be fair to her, not one person who promised not to laugh was able to keep that promise. It was pretty bad. She wanted me to keep that ID all four years of college and being a vain teenager I said, “I am not keeping that.” She said, “But you have to keep it, because if I’m ever sad or depressed, I’ll just take one look at that card and I’ll laugh again and it will make me happy.” In those days, Xerox machines were expensive and were rare, so we don’t have any proof of that, thank goodness.

Not many people have mothers who pack heat, but both my parents had concealed weapon permits. But my dad, because he was always carrying his gun, he knew when he got to the airport, to put the gun in the glove compartment. My mom just carried her gun occasionally so when she got to the airport, she forgot. She remembered right before she got to the metal detectors. So she pulls out her gun and says, “I forgot to leave this in the car, would you hold this for me?” Of course the people at the metal detector were alarmed and freaked out — who has a gun at the airport? The reason why we were there was to see Frank and Joyce and Pat off to go back to Maryland. Back in those days, in the 80s, we didn’t leave the airport until the plane was in the air, and you could go all the way to the gate to say goodbye. My dad got embarrassed easily, so he left as soon as he could. Somehow, I was right with my mom and I thought, “Well I better go ahead and say goodbye to my sisters before they had to check in and I couldn’t see them anymore.” So I said goodbye and came back around and by that time the Harbor police had arrived and were telling her, “Don’t move! Don’t move! Don’t touch the gun!” She was like, “I have my concealed weapon permit in my purse, just look at it.” “Don’t move!” When she saw me coming back she said, “Janet! Can you take my gun to the car?!” They were like, “Shhh!! Lady, you’re going to spook all the other passengers!” So they asked, “Well does your daughter have a concealed weapon permit?” “No” “Then she can’t take it back. You need to take your gun, go back to the car, and don’t come back to the airport.” She said, “But I’ve got to say goodbye to my kids!” So they said, “Okay, we’ll hold it for a little bit, but after that, go back to the car and don’t come back to the airport.” So we’re sitting there at the gate waiting, saying, she took the gun back so where is she? Since we didn’t leave the airport until the plane was in the air. So finally she thought, “Oh! If I leave the gun in the car, then I can sneak back into the airport.” Well she did, and finally they left and everything was fine. Pat got a little teary because she was leaving home and going all the way across the country for a year going to Georgetown, and she thought, “I could cry, but this is just so funny I have to laugh. My mother’s so whacky.”

They later had other issues with guns and people thinking they were robbing a bank, but that’s a story for another time. The last story that I want to tell is when my mother decided to talk to one of the bridesmaids during my wedding to Dave. We were married in Oak Harbor, Washington where the weather is cool and the churches don’t have air conditioning. But the day we were married it was 95 degrees; it was hot. One of my bridesmaids — a sweet little Southern belle with a thick Alabaman accent — was starting to feel a little woozy during the wedding. Well my mom saw that her eyes were starting to glaze over and that DuAnne had locked her knees. So in the middle of a song, my mom is saying, “DuAnne! DuAnne! DuAnne!” And I’m thinking, “I think my mom knows enough not to talk to the bridesmaid in the middle of the wedding, but okay…” Then Collette, who was standing behind DuAnne, realized that DuAnne was going to faint. Just as she was reaching out to touch DuAnne, DuAnne plowed into the bridesmaid in front of her and fainted. So my mom was just trying to get DuAnne’s attention and thought, “Maybe if I get her attention, she won’t faint.” The funny part was that at our reception (which was in this room - we got married in Oak Harbor and had a reception down here) we were telling stories about what happened at the wedding. So DuAnne got up and in her sweet Southern drawl said, “I was standing up there feeling really sick, and I thought ‘Oh Lord, please don’t let me get sick at Janet Nagata’s wedding,’” and then she said, “And then I heard a voice! And I thought, ‘It’s the Lord calling me home! No — it’s a woman’s voice. It’s an angel of the Lord!’” We didn’t end up hearing that story until later, but it gave us a big kick that DuAnne thought the Lord was calling her home in the middle of our wedding.

Now in the program it says that my mom’s dream was to go down the Grand Canyon. Jan Bittner’s mom, Mrs. Waite, a dear friend, hiked down in her 70s and my mom thought, “Well I’m going to go down to the bottom,” and so she decided to ride down on a mule. We would go on little trips to try to get her ready for that, but riding on level ground and riding down the Grand Canyon are two different things. We found out later, it is one of the most grueling rides you can take in North America. We had to be evaluated before we could go down, and I said, “You know, my mom’s got a strong will, I think maybe she can make it.” So they let her get on the mule, but not even quite half the way down I see her listing almost 45 degrees either way off this mule. I thought, “I’d better stop and tell the mule skinner this is not going to work.” So we stopped, and thankfully the Ranger Station was just a little ways further down and she got flown out of the Grand Canyon. I kind of liken my mom with her disease to that trip down the Grand Canyon — she had a strong will to live and she just wanted to keep living. But just like that trip down the Grand Canyon, her will was there but her body just wouldn’t cooperate. She fought valiantly for a long time.

I want to acknowledge a few people. Toward the end, she needed 24/7 care because she wasn’t able to do anything for herself. She wasn’t even able to open her eyes most of the time. She needed people to help her and there are caregivers in this room — Marilyn, Giovanna, and then Maureen is the coordinator. They took such loving care of my mom. Then, of course, I have to acknowledge her CHP friends. She was good buddies with Tim Clark, Assistant Commissioner, and Skip Carter, Deputy Commissioner. I think it was in 2010 that Skip retired and she said, “Okay Janet, we want you to drive us to Sacramento to attend his retirement dinner,” and we did. Again, she just loved the CHP, the people in the CHP, working with them, and interacting with them. So I thank you, especially today for being here.

Janet during open mic time:

So you heard the story that they eloped to Vegas, but the way I heard it told — I think by my mother — was that my mom was going up to Cal Poly for Poly Royal. They were in a car together and my dad starts heading off out of town and my mom was like, “Where are we going?” It’s like, “We’re going to Vegas, to get married.” My mom wasn’t sure if she was wanting to do that. But he said, “You either stay in the car and we’ll get married, or get out of the car right now.” So I guess she thought the better of it and stayed in the car. This is after the time he took her to a dance; he wouldn’t dance with her, though, because he didn’t want to scuff his shoes. But she married him anyway, so she knew what she was getting into.

It was wonderful growing up in a home knowing not only that my mother and father loved me, but to also see the love they had for one another. My dad, when he made up his mind, said that was the best decision he ever made. Our family, as you can tell by now, is a little odd. We enjoy being a little odd. He loved my mother inside and out, but the one thing he really was attracted to was her neck. Not her eyes or her smile, but her neck. So he would say she had the most beautiful neck ever. Even when she passed, he looked down at her and said that she still has a beautiful neck. But she was feeling really self-conscious as she got older, so that’s one reason why she had the scarves. She felt that her neck was getting a little wrinkled and aged. So she liked wearing scarves to accessorize her outfits. As she got older and I would take her to the doctor, people would look at her and say, “Your mom is so beautiful and so well-dressed,” then they’d look at me and not say anything else.

The other thing about Mom and Dad’s courtship, is when she got accepted to UC Berkley. She was headed to Berkley, but my dad was going to the junior college nearby and he said, “If you go to Berkley, and you don’t stay down here, I’ll never see you again.” Of course, my dad is super, super, conservative, so Berkley had two strikes against it — it would take her away from him, and it was fairly liberal. One thing growing up in this family was we were not allowed to watch any entertainer who was liberal. So if there was someone on TV who was liberal we couldn’t watch that program. But Mom and I really wanted to go see, “On Golden Pond” which had not just one Fonda, but two! So when dad was at work one day, we snuck out and watched “On Golden Pond.” It wasn’t always easy growing up in our family because not only could we not watch someone who is a liberal actor, but if someone was portraying a liberal, we couldn’t watch it. So a lot of people in my generation remember “Eight is Enough”— it wasn’t that he didn’t like Dick van Patten, it was that he didn’t like the person Dick Van Patten was portraying. So we couldn’t watch that show either. It was interesting growing up in our family, but again, having two loving, wonderful parents was just a tremendous blessing.

We do appreciate you coming here, laughing with us, crying with us. Mom would have wanted to be right here in the middle of it all. In some ways because she lives on in our hearts and in our memories, she’s here. We cry because we loved her so much and we’re going to miss her, but again, her laughter is the thing that really marks who she was.

Other Tributes at the Celebration of Life:


Good morning, and my condolences to the Nagata family. Miki came into my life back in the mid-80s. Can I have all CHP people in the room stand up, please? I’d like to acknowledge the Chief of Boarding Division, Jim Abele who is here. When I was in recruitment in the mid-80s I met Miki, and I believe it was as a result of Keith Newman or Dave Webb, at the time, the commander of the Oceanside office. We used to have outside public members come in for the oral interviews for entry-level cadets. That’s when I first met Miki. She was just all fire; it was great to have her there. And she’d tell you, in the panels she would disagree with the other panel members and they’d work it out. She was very tough, but great to work with. You knew what you were dealing with. I know that for a fact because I think she sat on two or three of my promotional panels, so I owe a lot of my success to Miki. I can remember one time sitting in one of them, I felt kind of comfortable but she hit me with a couple questions, and I thought, “Man, I didn’t see that one coming.” She was always there any time; she loved working with the department and the department loved having her working with us. She became a member of state personnel board to sit as a chairperson on these panels. So she starts out as just an outside public member volunteer-type position and then she gets certified by state personnel board to be a chairperson, so she ran the panels. So you can imagine how that went for anyone who went before her and the group of people there. We knew that we were getting the best people promoted — myself, not included — when she was on the panels, but we knew it was going to be a good balance. She spent a lot of time with us and I was pleasantly surprised and gratified that she and Mits were able to come to my retirement in 2010 in Sacramento. I’ll never forget that part because I looked out there and the woman that got me to a few of my positions was sitting right there. For me, it was like a full circle. She will be truly missed.


My name is Tim Clark and I, like Skip, have known the Nagata family for about 28 years. I must tell you that when I first met Miki, even though we all know she was small in stature, her personality, her grace, her elegance — that smile and that laugh — would fill the room, whatever room you were in. When you saw her, no matter how you were feeling that day, whenever you saw that smile, it made you feel that much better to be around her.

I want to tell you, though, when I first met her, I wasn’t sure we were going to go and hit it off. I want to share that story with you. I was selected to go and sit on a panel, and they told me that Miki was going to be the public member who was going to sit with me. We were going to travel all around the state and we were going to be together for probably about 2-3 weeks. In those days, she would sit on entry-level panels. When we first met, I said hello and what not and, you know, you always think you’re busier than you really are. I said, “Hey I gotta go to lunch, but I’ll be back and we’ll talk.” In those days, and we still do, we had to fill out these documents that assess the candidate and you kind of give a summary as to what has been going on with them in their career. Then you formulate a plan as to how to address that candidate about what their strengths and weaknesses are. Well, I came back from lunch and she waved me over. She said, “You know, we’re going to be together for about 3 weeks,” and I said, “Yes ma’am, I look forward to that very much.” She said, “Well that lunch was a little long, don’t you think?” I’m about 6’4”, 260 and I was scared as hell. I said, “Yes ma’am. I’ll make sure to tighten that up.” Even though I’m not representative of the department right now, I do want to say this and it’s very important to me. From all the people that are here representing the Highway Patrol, or who are still in the Highway Patrol, we owe Miki and Mits as well, a great deal of thanks, from this standpoint: Our organization — when you’re a part of it, and Miki and Mits were — we’re very proud of that organization, our reputation, the men and women that are out there all the time. No matter what rank you attain — whether you’re the officer out there on the street or you’re the chief up there representing a division. She had a strong hand in selecting the people that forged that reputation — whether it’s the officer, whether it’s senior promotions for sergeant, captain, or chief. Her fingerprints are on people right now who are in high levels of responsibility within this organization. She selected those people. The department owes her and her family a great deal of gratitude. So, thank you very much for that.

The last story that I want to tell is when she was coming back from a little bit of a challenge in 2000. Her voice was not as strong as it was, so Mits and the family and the department decided to give her a little portable mic. It would be able to go ahead and modulate her voice and then it would come into the room. At first, Miki wasn’t really keen on the idea of holding a mic and she would talk without it a little bit. You could see the people coming in would lean forward and were having difficulty maybe hearing her. So we talked about it and she got to be holding the mic and felt very comfortable and confident with how she was doing. So as the days and the weeks progressed, this is what would happen. We would finish with our interviews, and of course, I’d try to make her laugh or smile — I just enjoyed so much being around that woman. I loved that woman. I’d hear about her family and how special they were and I will never ever forget those stories. Mits would come in at the end of the day and we’d talk about our day. It got to the point that after the candidate left and we evaluated them, she would start singing into the mic. I’d say, “Hey! We’re not on American Idol here. This is supposed to be professional.” And she’d give me that look like, just zip it, and she’d go back to singing until the next candidate came in. Well some of the candidates would come in and say, “Excuse me, I’ve been standing out there and I was told to come in, but I heard this noise from outside, this singing and I wasn’t sure if this was the right room.” She’d look right at them — you know how she was — and said, “It wasn’t this room.” Then we would all laugh and we’d be behind all day. On that note, I must tell you once again how I loved being around her, I loved listening to her, I loved being invited to dinner with her and Mits when I had the honor and privilege of working for Skip. It brings a smile to my face to see how special your family really is. God bless you, Miki.


I came here in 1968 to ’74 to Camp Pendleton. If you were going out to the back gate, you always saw all the little fruit stands and there was nothing here. I left in ’74 and came back in the end of ’87. So now you can imagine, I came back here as a garbage man — actually not picking up the garbage but that was what I called myself. About two months after I was here, I was inducted into Rotary, and here’s Mits Nagata. I think that the relationship that the Japanese American community has with this community is something so beneficial for the city of Oceanside — and it’s people like Miki and Mits, all the Nagatas. Honestly, I wanted to say though, the Highway Patrol and the relationship with OPD probably kept the Nagata brothers out of a lot of trouble, riding around in their trucks — who knows what they were doing all day long out there in those fields. Now they’re talking about a new type of growing out there. These guys would probably have gotten… well they probably would have needed Highway Patrol and OPD’s protection.

I am so appreciative of what Mits and Miki meant to me in my life in Rotary. They made a garbage man the president of Rotary, and now I’ve somehow got on the City Council. That’s like getting promoted to the Commissioner of the Highway Patrol. When you’re blessed by their care and love, life is definitely better for all. I tell you on behalf of the city of Oceanside that we’ve missed Mits and Miki being here, but the family has made a difference in my life and I appreciate so much that you, Janet, have been taking care of them. That’s what families do — everybody’s going to be better if they do the things you’re doing for your mother and father. God bless Miki. Mits, it’s just so great to see you back in Oceanside. Thank you.


I have known Masako longer than anyone else in this room. You can challenge me on that, but the first time I saw her, she was a newborn and I was 3 weeks old. See if you can top that. We grew up in Leucadia, not even a mile apart, and we were best friends. We used to go down to their place in the evenings, my mom would come along, and we played Hearts around the dining room table. We went all the way through school together from 1st grade — except for the war years — through high school. We were in Girl Scouts together. Back in those days, what is now San Diego Botanical Society, belonged to the Larabees and they were our scout leaders. We used to have camp outs there and they took us all over the place.

So, I knew Masako in those years. We moved away after I was married and we were gone for a number of years, but every time we were back in the area, we would try to get together with them. One evening, I remember, Mel and I were out to dinner at the Red Lobster, and we were waiting to be seated when all of the sudden we looked up and there’s Mits and Masako. And they said, “Hey, we’re ahead of you. Why don’t you just come with us. We want you to be at our booth.” So we did and we had a great time. So we kind of kept that connection. She is a very important part of the fabric of my growing up years.


Hi, my name’s Doug. Miki was my dad's younger sister. I have a lot of fond memories of Auntie, I’m sure we all do. Some of those fond memories were gathering at her house off of El Camino Real, the old house. Whenever the cousins would have birthdays, sometimes we would celebrate there. Auntie was a wonderful aunt and a wonderful mother. Hearing some of the other testimonies, the words “tough” and “efficient” started coming out. Thinking about it, more things make sense. At the birthday parties when we celebrated Pat or Janet’s birthdays, they would often get clothes for gifts. Auntie would make them take off their clothes right there and try on the new clothes. (Janet's added note - we didn't undress in front of everyone - just in case you were wondering.) I don’t know if you guys remember that — she had you do that until you were 15 or 16 years old. Like I said, a wonderful aunt, a wonderful mother, but it was those instances when I was glad she wasn’t my mom.

She was a very caring person. She loved her nieces and nephews too. As I graduated from high school, and graduated from college, she kind of sensed that girls weren’t exactly attracted to me. She would be very concerned and she would start telling me things like, “Doug, you know you’re not getting any younger,” and “You know, you can date anybody from 18-years-old up to how old you are.” She would always give me these encouragements. So when she heard that finally there was someone willing to grant me audience and whom I was courting, she was so encouraging and she was so eager to meet Keiko. She took us out to dinner and it was a wonderful evening when she was just so happy for me and so encouraging. I remember telling her that I was afraid — at that time I hadn’t met Keiko’s family yet. I was confiding in her that I was afraid that they wouldn’t like me, but she was so sure that they would. That was a good encouragement. I think she was saying inside, “Oh they better! They’ve got to.” Anyways, she was a very loving aunt and very special.


I’m David Webb, I retired as Commander out of Oceanside in 2009. We’ve known Miki and Mits since 1982 when I was promoted to Lieutenant at the Oceanside office. I think I sat on one of the first panels Miki sat on — she started about that time. As a brand new lieutenant they told me, “Hey, you’re going down to San Diego to sit on a Qualification Appraisal Panel.” So I went down and met her. Mits used to come by the office all the time; he’d bring us strawberries. After they were done picking the tomato fields and the strawberry fields, they’d let people go out into the fields and glean it. When my wife met them, she bonded with Miki immediately because my wife is from Hawaii. They’re both small in stature, but very tough, I can tell you — a lot of similarities. Quiet, but you know who rules the roost. We ended up buying 3 acres out by Bonsall area and Mits says, “No problem, I’ll send a tractor to level it out in about 2 minutes. The tractor’s so big it can barely turn around on the property.” That’s how caring they were, and just wonderful people. Then I found out my wife’s godfather actually lived next door to my parents. My wife’s uncle married Iko, who had been at Poston as well.

I went to Cal Poly, Mits went to Cal Poly as well, so over the years we used to go up to the New Year’s celebration he and George would have — always very caring. Like I said, he would come by the office, they came to my retirement. I echo what Tim said, that a lot of the people on this department know that their careers and our department is much better because of them — just great people. I can relate — my dad grew up on a farm and I used to work for him all the time. I know the feeling of no vacations. Mits was always so practical. One year I was raising sweet corn, just to eat, I just had a small garden. He said, “You don’t get much yield to the acre with corn, you should put in strawberries and you’d get a lot more.” We love you, we give our condolences to you and your family. This is proof of the legacy that she left; look at this wonderful family. I just want to thank you for being so nice to everyone.


Good afternoon, my name is Terry. I met Miki by way of the Highway Patrol. She gave me the chance to have a terrific career, here in California. She saw my potential as a young Navy veteran, fresh out of service. I will be forever grateful to her for that opportunity. I just want to pay tribute to her; she was strong, she was tough. I had an opportunity to work with her years later on some of these QAPs that Tim mentioned. I was always captivated by her grace, her wit, her little sparkle in her eye — you know what I’m talking about — and the way she would just drill in to somebody with so much focus and draw out both the best and the worst of what they had to offer. My condolences to the whole family. Mits, it’s great to see you again. Thank you, to the whole family, for sharing her as much as you did and making this community and the state of California at large, such a great place. Her fingerprints truly are all over this state. Thanks for having me.


Hi, I’m Matt, Joyce’s son. This is Ryan, Pat’s son. We have lots of memories of Grandma, but we just wanted to tell one quick story in particular. This happened we were probably 8 or 9, or something like that. (Janet from the audience: 14, 15). A lot of times when we would come out to Oceanside, we would all stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s; boys would share a room and girls would share a room. This particular time, Ryan and I were in one room; I was on the bed, Ryan was on the floor. We were supposed to be going to sleep but you know how it works. Anyway, at one point after we were supposed to be quiet and asleep and Ryan, all of the sudden, lets out a scream like a little girl and jumps about 3 feet in the air. (Ryan: I was 8 or 9 remember, not 14 or 15). That brought Grandma running out. It turns out that there was a spider walking along the floor — just a little one. (Ryan: It was this big [Holding up his hands a foot apart]). Grandma who, even when we were 8 or 9, was smaller than we were — she takes off her slipper, gets down on the floor, sneaks up. You know, I’ve seen a lot of high level sporting events and I’ve known some great athletes, but to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move so quickly and with so much power. BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! That was the end of that spider and Ryan was safe. That’s why he’s here today.


[Sang “Amazing Grace”]
My mom found some videotapes from when I was 8 years old. I would sing for my grandma song after song. At a point in the video recording, after about 4 songs — I could go a lot when I was little; I had a lot of power for being such a tiny person — my grandma asked, “Are you tired? Do you need to take a rest? Do you need some water?” And my mom was like, “No, keep going, keep going.” So I’ll just always remember my grandma for being a very loving grandma. She loved her children dearly. She loved all 6 grandchildren with all of her heart. So she’ll be missed very much.


One of the things when talking about their eloping story — Miki actually changed her ways later on in life because when I was interested in Janet, she and Mits came all the way up to Monterey, California where there was a Christian conference going on, specifically to check me out to see if I would be acceptable to their Christian daughter. They carefully scrutinized who was going to get married, but they were a lot more free-spirited when they got married.

On behalf of the family, I really want to thank each and every one of you for being here and for just celebrating this way because she would have really appreciated this kind of a celebration. She didn’t want anything to be gloomy and sad, but she wanted people to come together. She was really focused on family and being together and that was a really high value she had in her life.

From "My Special Memory of You" cards from Grandma's Celebration of Life:

EMI ITO – One special memory I have of Auntie Masako was when Steve and I were recently married and we were invited to her place for a family Christmas party. I just remember she was very welcoming and for a newcomer to the Ito clan, it was a blessing. She was a very warm, friendly and great fun loving person.

Ted M (Can't read last name) – During a “ride a long” – 100 mph on day shift, only a Marine, late for formation. During a family gathering I was introduced as being “more Japanese than she was”.

Pat Gresham, Barbara Borden and Grandma were friends.

SANDY RISLEY – Mits and you would both come to the salon every 3 weeks and I so appreciated you. You both are so dear to me and it’s a Blessing to know you! I love you, Sandy.

CHUCK POTTER – Miki was always so sweet and kind. She and Mits were very helpful when my 5 year old son, Billy Joe Potter, whose mother was badly injured and helped with a fundraiser with the JACL to help with medical expenses in 1973.

CINDY YOSHIMURA UYEJI – Thank you to Auntie Masako and Kunio for setting us up on a blind date! Victor and Cindy – married since 1985

A Later Tribute:


When I think of Grandma, I think of the old house in Oceanside, fresh cut strawberries coated in sugar, watching figure skating on TV, In-n-Out shakes, building Lincoln Log cabins together, and walking by her cactus garden in the backyard. When we would go out into the community, I always thought it was more fun when Grandma drove because she always went so fast — at the time, not realizing how dangerous she probably was on the road.

I remember her taking my brother and I to go see Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” in theatres. One moment she was cackling at a cheesy joke, the next she was snoring loudly with her mouth wide open. I think Chris woke her up when the movie was over and she was disappointed when she realized she had missed the second half.

Another memory was when she called me into the home office one day when we were staying at their house for the weekend. She showed me an ugly stuffed doll with a big head and long skinny legs. It had buttons for eyes and thread for hair. Attached to the doll was a tag with a poem written on it: “Whenever things don’t go so well you want to hit the wall and yell, Here’s a little dammit doll, that you can’t do without. Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it. And as you whack the stuffing out yell, ‘Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!’” I was only 7 or 8 and very naïve so seeing my grandmother giggle over what I thought to be a very bad word was scandalous to me.

Some of Grandma's accomplishments (there are probably many others that we don't know about):

After initially writing Grandma’s obituary and bios, I (Janet) have found a lot more information about her. Some of these things might be shared in the captions of the photos, but some were not.

As mentioned before, Grandma was a scholar and an athlete. In high school she was involved with the Classical Club – according to her yearbook the club was “composed of all students who study and are interested in Latin, the Classical Club attempts to assist them in understanding the customs of the ancient Romans.”

She was a member of CSF – “The California Scholarship Federation is a state organization of students who meet specified high grade requirements.” Once you have achieved the requirements for four semesters, you qualify to have a special seal on your diploma – and you are a CSF Seal-bearer.

She was part of the Tri-Hi-Y – “The purpose of the Tri-Hi-Y is teamwork for the good of the school, the neighborhood and each other in accordance with Christian standards.”

Grandma was part of the GAA . “The Girls Athletic Association is the sports honor society for girls. Sweaters, emblems, and letters are awarded for points scored. The Big Ten are the ten Girl’s Athletic members who, through their interest in sports, willingness to give of their time and effort, and superior athletic ability, are honored by being chosen from the organization as representatives in the various fields of sport. “ Grandma was part of the “Big Ten” her junior (in softball) and senior year (in basketball). She also played field hockey and volleyball.

In high school there was a club called the JANELs – that stood for Japanese American Nisei Encinitas Leucadia. Before World War II, pretty much all Grandma’s friends were Caucasians. After the war, she had Japanese-American friends and Caucasian friends.

Grandma attended Oceanside-Carlsbad College (Junior College where she earned her AA) in 1950 and 1951. There she was a part of the Associated Women Students Council and she participated on the Spartan (yearbook) staff and on the school newspaper – the Chariot.

Grandma was part of Alpha Gamma Sigma, which the yearbook states is “ . . . campus brain trust . . .affiliated with the national college scholastic honorary . . .assets to the school socially as well as scholastically . . .an exclusive group for they are the people who have earned a B average in at least sixteen units of college work . . .”

She was also a part of the Coraphelian Sorority on campus – and actually was elected as President. They planned many activities for the student body. She was also the Spartan of the Month for March for the 1951 school year. Here is an article that was in the school’s paper – the Chariot:

Spartan of the Month – Masako Ito (Dated April 6, 1951)

“Last week Masako Ito was elected to hold a space in the Co-op Hall of Fame by being chosen as Spartan of the Month for March. Peppy little Masako was recognized for her never-ending job of Secretary of the Student Council. Every week she has faithfully and efficiently written the minutes, typed them and put them on the bulletin board for all to see. She also takes care of all communications for the Student Council.

Popular Masako also has taken over the important job of President of the Coraphelians. The well-laid plans for tonight’s Scavenger Hunt, and the Coraphelians pot luck and initiation are all evidence of Masako’s hard work.

When asked where she lived, Masako said, “Encinitas”; and when asked where she was born she had the same answer – “Encinitas”. Apparently living in one place all her life hasn’t bothered her too much though. After all, Mitzio (Grandpa) lives in California and she would be lost without him.

Not only does Masako work hard on social activities, she also keeps her grade average high. She is planning to go on to college, but doesn’t know exactly which one she’ll attend. Probably the one Mitz goes to. (Will they let you in the Army, Masako?)"

And then there is another article when she was named Woman of the Year (Dated May 25, 1951)

"Masako Ito, popular sophomore, has been elected Woman of the Year by members of the A.W.S. (Associated Women Students) She was nominated by Alpha Gamma Sigma, the Sophomore class, and the Coraphelians.

Masako has earned this title by working hard for the school as secretary of the Student Council. The minutes for each meeting have been carefully recorded each week by her, which is a lot of work. Not only that, Masako has found time to write all the letters for the Council and keep track of all communications received.

With all this work, efficient Masako has also served as president of the Coraphelians.

Friendly and cheerful, she is always willing to do any kind of job that comes her way. She has been a member of the Spartan this year and has contributed a great deal to the organization.

Masako’s plans for the future include a Business Administration major at Berkeley. She plans to be a personnel manager upon her graduation for the university. From her record here at Oceanside her chances for making a name for herself in the business world are very good. Best of luck to you, Masako!"

Other things I didn’t know about Grandma, but learned from a high school newspaper: At one point her nickname was Bernie, her ambition was to travel around the world, her pet peeve was “dentist” and she considered herself as “giggles”.

A LITTLE ITO FAMILY HISTORY - What we think we know . . .

We know that Grandpa Ito (Grandma’s dad) went to art school in San Francisco and experienced the great 1906 earthquake. We don’t know how he went from art school to running a plant nursery in Encinitas, but at one point he worked as a “house boy” for a wealthy couple. There was also the time that Grandpa Ito was driving across the railroad tracks (in those days there were no bars or warnings) and he was hit by the train. His car turned over several times but he just ended up with a few scratches.

Grandma’s family was pretty poor and their house only had a dirt floor. But the kindness of others really helped their family. When Grandma Ito (Onoe) needed mastoid surgery, Dodo’s sister paid for the surgery. (I think that was the surgery where Grandma Ito went into surgery with black hair, but then her hair turned completely white.) Dodo (Josephine Yoch) somehow became a part of their family growing up. She was a single woman, a little older than Grandma Ito and a teacher. When the family was taken away to the Poston interment camp, Dodo stayed at the house and also visited them in camp. No one seems to know how Dodo received that nickname. Dodo was Catholic and is buried at the San Luis Rey Mission graveyard.

In Jan Bittner’s sharing, she mentioned about the Larabees and Girl Scouts. Apparently, Charles and Ruth Larabee were a wealthy couple without children. Mrs. Larabee was a Girl Scout leader and took the girls (including Grandma) camping, to Catalina Island and various trips. I’m guessing that the Larabees actually sponsored these trips. The Larabees also donated Quail Gardens to the County of San Diego and that has become the San Diego Botanical Gardens.

Another family kind to the Itos were Paul and Edith Ellsworth. They were another couple without children. They would drive Auntie Haruko to piano lesson in San Diego, and also take her to Yosemite on vacation every year.

Here is a letter that I found among Grandma’s things. It was written to her two brothers – Chuck and Tak – on October 23, 1945

Dear Chuck and Tak,

Well you know from our telegram what has happened to our whole barn. It was a terrible fire. I’ll start from the beginning. We all went to bed about 9:00 P.M. Then about 10:20 P.M. daddy happened to wake up. He heard this cracking and popping noise. When he looked out the door the flames were leaping. He woke up mama and Miss Yoch (who was here). Miss Yoch said when she looked out the door she thought it was a volcano it was so big. Miss Yoch woke me up. Half asleep I grabbed two coats and carried Ha-Chun (Auntie Haruko) out on the road. There was a great crowd of people. Mr. Coutts helped out a lot. He telephoned for the fire engine, so did Miss Yoch. There were a lot of men helping fight the fire until the fire engine came. It came about 20 minutes after daddy saw the fire.

All this time Ha-Chun and I were standing out on the road trembling and scared. I was half crying and half screaming. Then a nice lady came and comforted us. I was standing out in the road so I thought our house was on fire.

Well, when the fire engine came there was no place to hitch the water. Then Mr. Coutts thought of Dick Dolman’s pipe. That saved us. It has and had a very strong pressure. The two fire engines came from Carlsbad. The firemen were here until 2:15 a.m. putting out the fire. Then, after they left, daddy worked another hour and a half putting out small sparks and anything else dangerous. It still is smoking a little in small spots.

The whole barn burned down to ashes. One side of the lath house was burned. All the plants in the lath house were saved but all the cactus on one side of the barn burned. All our 29 boxes from Poston came on Oct. 19, 1945. We did not touch or unpack anything except for the two violins which I took out. But all our winter clothing and typewriter, cooler and everything else in the 29 boxes all burned to ashes. Also all of daddy’s 3 years of work on wood burned down, too. One and only lucky thing was that our house did not burn and that the Torimarus had gotten all of their things out.

We don’t know how it started but we are pretty sure that someone started it. We have a suspicion but will tell you later when sure. We are all thankful that no one was hurt. There have been many, many kind people around here trying to help us. Please do not worry we are alright. Mama said to give Hiroko our best regards.

Love from the family,
Written by Masako

P/S Miss Yoch has been spending the whole day talking to policemen, newspaper men and has been working very hard. Next Saturday the Fujimotos are going to come over and help daddy clean up all the ashes. Daddy said not to worry and both of you take good care of yourselves. Barn burned Oct. 22, 1945

M. Ito

P/S Sewing machine saved also.

(I left the letter with spellings and grammar the same. I did insert the "Auntie Haruko" explaining who Ha-Chun was.)

Grandma, like other American citizens of Japanese descent, faced racism and discrimination – especially, of course, the situation with being interned during the war. But Grandma Ito was American patriot, even though she wasn’t a citizen yet. (As soon as she could, she became a citizen – and then she never failed to vote in every election.) She would tell her family that America was her country and that America was doing what it felt was the best course of action for the entire country. Her attitude helped Grandma not to be embittered by the internment experience.

Grandpa and Grandma faced discrimination during their honeymoon when they were turned away from a hotel that wouldn’t allow them to stay there in 1952.
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Japanese-American Reparation Act giving each survivor of the internment camps $20,000 plus an apology. This directed hate and racism again against Japanese-Americans (as seen in newspaper articles and letters to the editor). I remember Grandma saying that she almost didn’t want the money because it directed that hate and racism toward her again.

As seen in the letter that Grandma wrote to her brothers, Grandma and her family faced racism but also they saw the kindness of many others.

Appreciation for Grandma as Mother and Grandma:

When David and I attended a marriage seminar we were challenged to leave a legacy to our children in the way of values and godly upbringing. We were also encouraged to write a tribute our parents, here is mine to Grandma. I’m not sure what year I wrote this.

To My Mother

This is a tribute to you, Mom, not just for Mother’s Day, but to say thank you for all you do and have done for me.

To say thank you seems so little, when you have done so much. Though I’m not very good with words, I will try to express the love, appreciation and admiration that I have for you.

I know that my entrance into this world wasn’t a smooth one, and that it almost cost you your life. (Grandma hemorrhaged severely and they had difficulty stopping the bleeding. She was thinking that her mom was going to have to raise us.) You have given to me from the beginning, and you still continue to give so much of yourself.

Our family wasn’t very demonstrative, but I never had any doubt or questions that I was loved. Your actions spoke louder than words. You made sacrifices so that I could have a Barbie Dream house (each of us received one that Christmas), a fifteenth birthday party, a college education and countless other things. Your involvement in Girl Scouts and PTA was so that we could have the wonderful experiences we had growing up.

As I grew older, you gave me the freedom to become my own person. There was a stage when I think I was embarrassed to admit that I had a mother, yet you still supported me. You were there any time I performed or received an award. As Joyce would say, “Mom would come and watch us breathe.”

Now that I am a mom myself, I appreciate you even more. Until I had children, I didn’t understand how challenging it is to be a good mom – and I don’t even have teenagers yet.

You are not only my mom, but my friend. Thank you so much for all you have done for me. I also thank you for being a wonderful grandma to my children.

With love and appreciation,

Grandma would come (with Grandpa) and helped each of us after our kids were born. But she did say that was limited to two kids, after that we were on our own. I know that watching our kids wasn’t easy. I found the following email she sent to Auntie Haruko (on November 6th, 2003) after Grandma and Grandpa watched Chris, Kristi and the dogs. (All grammar and spelling have remained unchanged.)

Hi Haruko,

What have you been up to? Last night I went to bed at 11:30 p.m. and work up at 3:15 a.m. We had the alarm set for 4 a.m. since we wanted to leave at 5:00 a.m. So we left at about 4:50 a.m. We met Dave at the San Diego airport and Mits drove their car back here.

I was really sleepy, so from about 9:00 a.m. I tried to get comfortable and take a nap. About 9:30 I dozed off and the phone rang. It was Kristi’s school saying that their dogs were running around the school yard. So Mits took off with the lease (yes, it should be leash) and I got my shoes on and followed. May who is Chris’ dog is an escape artist, she is always getting out of the yard. Autumn who is Kristi’s dog is dummer, but she stays closer to home. Anyway, May had managed to unlatch the gate, which opens up into the back of Kristi’s school and was running all over, Autumn was standing looking out the open door. I was grateful that we didn’t have two dogs to chase. There is a very steep incline, poor Mits with his bad knee had to slide down and I landed on my butt and slid down about the bottom half of the way. I saw Mits way on the other side of the school when I spotted May sniffing at a lady, so I called her and she came running past me, ran up the incline and away, I called her, but she kept going until she stopped to sniff at another lady, I ran after her and called her again, this time she came to me and I had to hold her until Mits came with the leash.

The incline was to steep, I couldn’t climb back up, so I walked May all the way around the school and down the street back to the house. Mits wanted to wait from Kristi because one of the play ground teachers came over to talk to us and asked if the dogs were the infamous Yumen dogs. I said yes. I was just about back to Janet’s house when I ran into two of the Mormon boys (black pants and white shirts) you know, the ones that take two years of their life and go to a different part of the country to try to preach the Mormon religion. Anyway, they stopped me and asked if I believed in God, and I said yes, and they said that was wonderful, but I told them I wasn’t religious, so they gave me a card to call an 800 number where they would send me a free video about God and Jesus!

Since I didn’t have a key to the front door, I had to find how to open the side gate. May, put on her brakes and didn’t want to come in. AS I was walking by the side of the house to the back yard, Autumn hunches up her back, she didn’t recognize me or see May. But as I got closer and she saw May, she began to wag her tale.

By now I was so wide awake I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I was fixing our lunch when the door bell rang, and Mits answers the door, and after a brief conversation says just a minute, you can talk to my wife. Guess who it was. The two Mormon boys. So I said Hi and told them I had just talked to them and thank you, but they wanted to talk and said if there was ever anything they could do, they were always in the neighborhood so just call them. One was from Utah and the other was from Calgary, Canada.

I hope today isn’t going to be an example of what is going to happen while we are here!!!

Anyway, I think we are going to brave the Friday night traffic and come home tomorrow night. Chris will be leaving here about 4:00 p.m. to go to the Colorado river with the Boy Scouts and returns Monday afternoon. So we will just have Kristi with us. There is no school Monday or Tuesday so we will be coming back here Monday late Morning. I sure wish I were going with you to Las Vegas. Good Luck! Hope you win a lot of money!!

We have to take the dogs to a pet hotel tomorrow and pick them up on Monday. These two dogs are so big and so undisciplined. But the kids and Janet just love them!

Well, I guess I have bored you long enough. I may try to call you tomorrow, What time are leaving Saturday and when will you be back????

Love, Masako

I don’t remember all these details – or maybe Grandma didn’t share them. I do remember that when Grandpa and Grandma picked up the dogs from the pet hotel, May pulled the leash so hard that she pulled Grandma to the ground. I also remember that even though I prepaid the dogs’ kennel fees ahead of time, Grandma paid an extra amount so the dogs could have some “play time” outside of their enclosures.

Other memories of Grandma:


When Grandma was in the Poston Interment Camp during World War II, she was really skinny. She wasn't eating enough so her brother sent her cans of tuna to eat (he was living in Detroit and if you lived in the interior part of the country, you didn't have to be interned during the war). Her mom put the tuna on rice and flavored it with ketchup. So growing up, one of the meals we would eat was tuna straight out of the can on hot rice and topped with ketchup. Surprisingly, it tasted okay.

For many years we (Grandma's girls) talked about writing a book about Grandma's famous sayings and bloopers. But I don't think we wrote them down, so I can't remember them all. And after writing these out, they seem funnier when they are shared in person than on paper. But here are some anyway.

There was the time when Grandma was in a hurry to get ready and she grabbed the first toothpaste she saw to brush her teeth. Because of her poor eyesight, she accidentally grabbed a tube of Head and Shoulders shampoo instead of a tube of Crest. I could hear her from the bathroom saying, "Ugh, Janet, your toothpaste tastes terrible." (The rest of the family used Colgate and I was the only one that used Crest.) Then upon closer inspection she realized what she had done.

When Joyce and Frank were married, their reception was at their apartment. Grandma was supposed to run things, but she couldn't. After we toasted the happy couple with "champagne", some of us gave Grandma what we didn't drink. Then Frank's sister made Grandma a Kahlua and Cream (which Grandma thought was delicious) and she drank that, too. By the time she was to help with the reception, she was totally out of it.

Grandma also said that when all her girls were happily married, she would go out and get drunk - but that really only consisted of one drink. . .

Grandma loved going to the Del Mar Fair and buying "time-saving" gadgets. One of the gadgets she tried was a car washing system. Water was supposed to be drawn up a hose as the person moved the brush in a circular motion on the car. But the gadget didn't work well and not much water was drawn up the hose. So Grandma would use her right hand to move the brush and her left hand to shake the hose, hoping that motion would draw water up the hose. When I would see her trying to use this contraption, it reminded me of someone patty their head while rubbing their tummy.

Of course one of her bloopers was when she took her gun into the airport - and we've already shared that story.

Growing up I slept long and hard. For some reason Grandma would take us places early in the morning and there was barely any time to get dressed. My hair would be a mess and I would look like death warmed over and Grandma would say "At least put a little lipstick on." (A little lipstick wasn't going to help much.) Grandma seemed to say this fairly often to all of us.

The grandkids remember Grandma encouraging everyone to go "last drop" before we were to go anywhere.

Last notes: I (Janet) used "Grandma" in all the captions on that pictures and the most of the stories here because most of us have been referring to Mom by that name most recently. When I was working on some stories in Word, I was able to italicize the direct letters and articles, but when I pasted them into this memory book program, they all became normal print. The stories and pictures are NOT in chronological order but more by "theme".

Thanks to everyone for their stories and contribution of pictures. Special thanks to Kiley for scanning so many of the pictures for the Memory book (more than once) and for all the work Kristi did transcribing what people shared at the Celebration of Life.