Tom Tomomi HIRAI
April 25, 1927 – February 3, 2020
Tomomi “Tom” Hirai left this world peacefully on February 3, 2020 with his daughter, Holly, by his side. Born on April 25th, 1927 in Hyde Park, California, Tom was the second of seven children. His family moved frequently, but he fondly remembered Long Beach, CA as his home town. Tom’s commitment to hard work was sparked in childhood: His first job was at Barnaby’s Market filling soda glasses after school, and he delivered newspapers each morning before school. Tom also recalled harvesting leftover lima beans from fields near his home, and repairing old bicycles for his sisters. In childhood, Tom afforded himself a single Saturday treat: a ten-cent hamburger with a ten cent soda. Tom’s practical values guide his family to this day.
Tom’s family relocated to a WWII internment camp at Santa Anita Raceway, then subsequently to a second camp in Rohwer, Arkansas for four more years - Tom graduated High School in camp at the age of 17. After WWII ended, Tom’s family received a one-way ticket to Idaho, where they harvested potatoes. In 1947, the family moved to South Dakota to share crop, and by 1950 the Hirai’s were Bell Fourche’s largest sugar beat producers. U&I Sugar Production eventually asked the Hirai’s to move to Quincy, WA to establish new farming territory.
In the winters when farming was slow, Tom went to Black Hills Teacher’s College in Spearfish, SD and later to Central Washington College in Ellensburg, WA. He eventually transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating in Business, Finance and Real Estate in 1967. While at the University of Washington, his friend, Sam Goto, introduced him to Sally Endo. They dated briefly before marrying on February 14, 1960 at the Buddhist Temple in San Jose, CA.
Tom spent the majority of his life farming in Quincy. Over the years, Hirai Farms grew a diverse crop of sugar beets, alfalfa, wheat, potatoes, sweet corn, peas, onions and asparagus. Known especially for their potatoes and onions, the Hirai’s produce was recognized in multiple markets for exceedingly high quality. Tom’s oldest son, Blaine, worked at his side in Quincy.
Tom traveled to Woodinville, WA to be with his wife and children on weekends, often flying his personal plane, or commuting by bus or train. He enjoyed the challenge of aviation, and flew his family on trips to Sun River and Ocean Shores on multiple occasions.
In 1972, Tom was asked to serve as an officer for the Federal Reserve Bank’s 12th District. He served for six years, traveling to San Francisco and Washington DC for meetings. He was one of the first Asian Americans to serve the Federal Reserve.
In the 1980’s, Tom and Sally moved to Bellevue, WA. It was during this time that Tom began supplementing his farming business with commercial real estate ventures. Tom’s youngest son, Todd, managed business interests alongside his father on the West side of the mountains.
Tom was an avid reader and spent much of his time investigating naturopathic therapies to improve his quality of life. He was a type II diabetic, and was proud to have lived to 92 with his disease. He enjoyed playing bridge in college, and even played three times per week in his later years. He enjoyed fellowship at the Japanese Baptist Church, and it was very important to him that his children be raised in the church. Few people realized that he quietly donated a great deal of produce to local food banks and churches in the Seattle area.
Tom is preceded in death by his wife Sally Hirai; brothers Heide and Jim Hirai; sister Mary Anne Kobuke; father Kachiro Hirai; mother Riyo Hirai; and granddaughter Maya Hirai. He is survived by his daughter, Holly Hirai; son Blaine Hirai and grandson Brandon; son and daughter-in-law Todd and Esther Hirai and grandchildren Jacqueline, TJ and Ben; and sisters, Nancy Mugishima, Patty Koyama and Betty Hirata.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Northwest Harvest, PO Box 12272 Seattle, WA 98102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Friends and Family,
Due to the COVID19 virus epidemic we have decided to postpone Mom and Dad’s Memorial Service on March 14th. We may reschedule for a later date. Being that Mom was a retired public health nurse she would agree with us to put our friends and family’s health first.
Holly, Blaine and Todd
- Pending Information