February 15, 1916 – February 16, 2013
Tatsuo Yamamoto Eulogy
February 21, 2013 By Mits Nakanishi and the Yamamoto family
Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
I want to thank you all for coming to celebrate the life of Tatsuo Yamamoto.
Tats Yamamoto was born in Seattle on February 15, 1916, in an area then known as Japantown. He was the first child of Otoichi and Shigeyo Yamamoto. His parents married on March 15, 1915. They emigrated from Wakayama, Japan on September 1915 and arrived in Port Townsend, near Seattle on October, 1915. Tats was born the following year followed by his siblings Shim, Mary and Sumi.
When Tats was 13, his father became seriously ill. He traveled back to Japan for medical help, but died on Christmas day 1929. This drastically changed the lives of the family. The country was in the middle of the Great Depression. His mother with no English language skills, found herself having to feed, house, and raise the family. She found a job first as an alteration seamstress at a dry cleaning shop, then as a chambermaid in a hotel in downtown Seattle. Eventually she became the lessee of a small hotel near the Pike Place Market. The hotel still stands today.
Starting from the summer of 1930, Tats and Shim worked in a salmon cannery near Kenai, Alaska to help supplement the family income. Because Tats was under age at 14, he had to falsify his age to work in the cannery. The salmon season lasted from early June till the end of August allowing Tats and Shim to work during summer vacation.
The summer of 1930 went well with Tats and Shim until they encountered another setback. On the way home to Seattle, Tats and Shim contracted diphtheria and both of them became deathly ill. They survived but they brought the illness home to their siblings. Although their mother never contracted diphtheria, the four siblings were quarantined at Firland Sanitarium located to the north of Seattle. Tats and Shim did not go to the Cannery the summer of 1931 and 1932, but returned in 1933 for 4 more summers.
Tats graduated from Cleveland High School in June of 1935. Not being able to find employment in Seattle, Tats and Shim along with their friend, traveled to California to work on a huge farm. The Minami Farm was owned by their cousin and located in Guadalupe, CA. They worked at the Minami Farm from October 1936 to February 1942. During that time they made two visits to Seattle. Their second trip was in February 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The U.S. government began placing travel restrictions on all Japanese. There were rumors that a curfew would be placed on all Japanese with a possible mass evacuation into relocation camps. Tats and Shim decided it was time to rejoin the family making a non-stop trip from Guadalupe to Seattle.
On Mother’s Day, May 10, 1942 the Yamamoto family boarded a bus at Broadway and Alder and was taken to a temporary camp at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. They stayed at Puyallup Fairgrounds for four months and were subsequently sent to a more permanent facility at Minidoka, Idaho. The family stayed at Minidoka Camp from August 1942 till June 15, 1945. During their stay at Minidoka, Sumi, his youngest sister contracted meningitis and died within one week. She died on April 18, 1943 with her funeral on Palm Sunday.
After the War, Tats, Shim, Mary and their mother moved to Cleveland and bought a duplex at 12098 Chesterfield Avenue. At a New Years dance Tats met Kinuyo Shintaku and they married on July 7, 1951. They had four kids in rapid succession starting from 1953: Dennis, Stephen, Stan and Donna. Wow, Kinu must have been exhausted!
In the summer of 1962, the year of the Seattle World’s Fair, Tats moved the family from Cleveland back to his hometown of Seattle. What a car trip – 2400 miles with a family of six in a white Chevy station wagon! The new Interstate system was mostly complete through Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and finally Washington.
The family first bought a home on Beacon Hill on Portland Avenue. However, times were challenging so Tats and Kinu bought a Ma and Pa grocery store in Bryn Mawr, just north of Renton. The grocery store was a two-story building with the residence upstairs. It was named Dave’s Grocery, so for many of the clientele, Tat’s became to be known as Dave.
Dave’s Grocery was a lot of work, having to order the inventory, stock the shelves, deal with all of the finicky customers, and Tats even learned to butcher sides of beef. The job was 12 hours per day, and 7 days per week. Running the store was quite a family affair. The only break was if Tat’s hired help on Sunday afternoons. It did, however, provide the economic mainstay to raise the 4 kids and seemingly more dogs than one can count.
After all of the kids, Dennis, Stephen, Stan and Donna completed school, Tats and Kinu sold the store, retired and moved to Renton. They enjoyed gardening, working on the house, traveling to Japan twice and annual month long vacations to Hawaii. Their vacations were quite a highlight:
In Japan, they visited hometowns where family were born and where relatives stilI reside.
During January visits to Hawaii, they enjoyed warm weather, taking the Bus around Oahu, and especially eating at Shirokiya in the Ala Moana Center.
Tats had a lot of hobbies and interests. He taught himself the harmonica, accordion, mandolin, Hawaiian lap guitar, and electronic organ. He also enjoyed wood working, oil painting, golf and bowling. In fact, Tats, Stephen and Stan bowled in several competitive leagues. He also had a fancy for cars. From the day he had his license until he gave up his last car, he had purchased more than 20 cars.
Retirement was a wonderful life. Tats enjoyed more than 35 years of retirement. He especially loved spending his time with his wife, Kinu, through 61 years of marriage. He may have not expressed his happiness and pride but he loved and appreciated his wife Kinu and every visit from Dennis & Kathy, Stephen & Carol, Stan & Sonya, Donna & Bryce, Mits & Mary and Sharon. He cherished the visits with his 5 grandchildren Mariko, David, Marcus, Derek and Kyle; and most recently he was excited about Casey joining the family. He bragged about his entire family to friends but found it difficult to express his feelings direct to his family.
In October of 2006 Tats & Kinu moved from their home to the Eagle Ridge Lodge Retirement Center, in Renton. They made many friends during this chapter of their life, spending 6 years free from having to maintain a home.
In February 2012 Tats moved into the Easthill Elder Care adult family home in Renton. This is a fantastic home that Sonya found for him. Daniela and Livi, Lydia, Donna, Alena, and Jessica are incredible! Tats at times could be a little grumpy and demanding, but they turned him around with their love and care, into a kind and gentle soul.
We will all miss Tats. He was a good husband, friend, father, uncle and grandfather. Let us celebrate his life. May he rest in peace.
- Private Family Service
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February 26, 2013
There are fond childhood memories that I have of my Uncle Tats in Cleveland, Ohio, and in later years' visits in the Seattle area.
Tats enjoyed bowling and I remember tagging along with him, as a child, to the bowling alleys as well as visits to the amusement park.
Even though Tats and Kinu and family moved a distance away, they were always close in my mind and heart.
Uncle Tats was a self-made man in the true sense of the term. He was a honorable man, with many diverse talents, and someone I always admired.
Everyone can take comfort in knowing that he was very proud of and loved each and every member of his family, especially his dear wife, Kinu. At the last Thanksgiving gathering, with the entire family in attendance, he proudly said to his wife of 61 years, Kinu, "look what we created." They certainly did and he will be greatly missed. With much love and gratitude, Sharon Shintaku, niece
February 24, 2013
You took a lot of photographs, preserving a lot of memories for your family. Through your viewfinder, we peer into yesteryear's snapshots to see;
A man who loved his wife so much he preserved thousands of photos of her smile.
A man seeing the joy and smiles of his four children on Christmas morning.
A man who loved his father, mother, brother and sister, proud of his heritage and family roots.
A man who met adversity with perseverance and hard work.
A successful entrepreneur, proud of the business he and his family created together.
A man's pride in purchasing a new car.
A man who loved, or at least developed a tolerance, for little Chihuahua dogs.
A man who enjoyed the challenge of teaching himself to play his latest musical instrument purchase.
A man who gave the family's dog new life by crafting a set of wheels to serve in place of worn out hind legs.
A man who loved spending time in Hawaii with Kinu.
A man who expressed his creative gift through painting and woodworking.
A man who found natures wonder in cultivating flowers and plants.
A man's pride in his wife and family.
A man who loved watching his grandchildren grow.
A man celebrating a long successful marriage with his loving wife.
A man who lived to see his dream of an easier life for all his children come true.
My life is richer because of you, Tat's. I've learned a lot from you. May God continue to bless you.
Until we meet again.
February 24, 2013
Dad was a special man and had many accomplishments during his 97 years. Even though he encountered many hardships including internment, with the support from my mom he raised 4 kids, had his own business and had a wonderful & long retirement including travel, music and several hobbies. Dad's father had passed when he was very young, so I believe Dad did the best he could in being a good husband, father, provider, brother and friend.
I'm not sure what the family would have done without the incredible care Dad had received from everyone at Easthill Elder Care and with the special care of Sonya Yamamoto. Would also like to express my gratitude to Misuko Ohashi and her son Byron Ohashi. You are all angels. We thank you.
When the stars are out I will look up and know Dad is
watching over all of us. Some of his memories may make me laugh and wonder but I will keep them close to my heart and will always love him.
See you later Dad.
February 23, 2013
We miss,and love you Tats, here at East Hill Elder Care, we remember you at every meal, in the morning, and all day. It has been such an honor to care for you in the last year, we miss your deep voice calling, and your stories from childhood to present....and most of all, I know how much you loved and appriciated us. I remember on the last inspection by the state, Tats told the licensor:"These ladies know how to take care of me real well, however I had to teach them how to cook, but now i'm happy here".A year went by way too fast, but your memory will live in our house forever. I put the painting you gave us next to the room you slept in, and it will stay there always...love Daniela, Lidia, Dana, Liviu and all the other residents that knew you...
February 23, 2013
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
February 21, 2013
I miss you dear friend... What I learned from you in the last year is priceless. Thank you for the kindness,and love you gave to me. I still smile at what you told me a few weeks ago. You said you weren't feeling well,and I better go home so I don't "catch" what you had....I just smiled shook my head and said "I'm not worried". You said some pretty funny things. I wish now I had kept a journal of our visits. Even when you kicked me out! :) Bottom line, "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!" My life is richer because of you. Your family should be proud of the wonderful changes you made in the past year. I'm at peace knowing your at peace. Sonya
February 20, 2013
I am so thankful we were able to sit and visit with "Grandpa Yamamoto" (as Jessica and Noah knew him by) while we were there last summer. The sparkle that lit his eyes when he realized who we were meant so much to me.
Our family would like to offer our deepest sympathy, know that we will continue to lift you in our prayers for comfort and peace.
Steve, Machelle, Jessica and Noah Simmons