Gay Tokumaru Bessen

May 6, 1962March 9, 2018

Gay Tokumaru Bessen, 55 died on March 9th, 2018 after a brief battle with cancer. As vivid as the streaks of color in her hair, she reveled in the love of her husband, Andy Bessen, and the company of her friends and family. Gay loved the outdoors, loved to travel with Andy, and would cheerfully haul him out of the house or the hotel in the wee hours to hike a mountain and watch the sunrise.

Gay grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Brown University and UC Berkeley School of Optometry. Dr. Tokumaru went on to become the Chief of Optometry at the Hampton VA Medical Center in Virginia, a professional journey that provided care to our veterans for 29 years.

Gay met many strangers, but had a knack of leaving as friends.

Gay is survived by her husband Andy, her mother Ann Tokumaru of Hawaii, her cats, her two brothers, numerous family and great friends, all of whom will miss her dearly.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in her memory to Nelson County Almost Home Pet Adoption Center, 29 Stagebridge Road, Lovington, Virginia 22949-2446.

Her memorial service will be held at Nelsen Funeral Home on 3785 Strawberry Plains Road in Williamsburg, Virginia at 1:30 on Saturday, March 24th. Following the service, guests are invited to join in a toast to Gay at Craft 31 at 3701 Strawberry Plains Road.

There will be a service held in Honolulu at a later date. Online condolences may be offered at


  • Gay is survived by her husband Andy, her mother Ann Tokumaru of Hawaii, her cats, her two brothers, numerous family and great friends, all of whom will miss her dearly.


  • Service Saturday, March 24, 2018
  • Visitation Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gay Tokumaru Bessen

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John Floyd

June 1, 2018

I was a patient of Dr. Tokumaru at the Hampton VA Medical Center for years and each and every time I saw her she made the day seem much brighter. She was always cheerful. Just the sound of her high heels walking down the hallway was enough to cheer you up.

I am SO sorry about your loss, she will always be in my thoughts.


Anthony D'Angelo

May 24, 2018

We first met Dr Tokumaru about five years ago at the low vision clinic in the VA Medical Center, Hampton, VA. Tony was admitted for treatment there. She was so cheerful and uplifting. During the time we came, at least two interns were assisting her for their training. This is one veteran who appreciates her care and concern. She was well known and respected by the vision community. We are so very sorry to see her passing and will miss her presence when we return to Hampton.
Anthony and Sharron D'Angelo
Virginia Beach

Cynthia Heard

April 11, 2018

I couldn't believe that Gay was gone. I saw her October 2017 at AAO. We exchanged the usual pleasantries in passing. I wasn't aware of her health concerns, so I was completely shocked to learn of her untimely death.
I have known Gay for many years between her being a VA preceptor for externs affiliated with OSU College of Optometry and the AAO EQAC.
Condolences to your family and loved ones. This will create a void within the optometric profession that will be felt for some time.
RIP, Sweet Gay.

Nick Colatrella

March 23, 2018

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Gay. In fact I am still in shock from the email the Academy sent out, and will be for some time. Gay always had a smile on her face and would light up a room when she entered. Academy meetings will not bet the same without her. She will be sorely missed. Deepest condolences.

Becky Faubert

March 23, 2018

Our most heartfelt condolences go out to Andy and Gay's family and friends for this tremendous loss. In the time we volunteered together, I never met anyone as dedicated or selfless, and she gave all of herself to better the lives of the cats and kittens without desire for acknowledgment. Our home is only complete because Gay helped us to adopt the fur-babies that we could not live without, and she will remain in our hearts and minds forever.

Geoffrey F. Chiara, O.D.

March 20, 2018

Sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the Bessen family at this time of loss. Gay was valuable and trusted friend and colleague who will be sorely missed by all.

Olga Kochurova

March 20, 2018

I will greatly miss Gay. Dr.T -as the students called her, was an extraordinary teacher and residency supervisor. She was passionate and meticulous about every case, every chart and presentation I got to complete as a resident. She dedicated herself entirely to the care of the patients and teaching when she was at the VA. The patients loved seeing her every time, we had a tough time getting patients out of the exam chair because they simply enjoyed their time with Dr.T who always had something funny and personal to say during their exam. We laughed and had funny jokes about our day. Every day was intense, engaging, and fun to be next to Dr.T. We last got to see each other on the most important day of my life - on my wedding day. She was there for me simply always, ever since our paths crossed. I’m grateful to God for giving me a chance to have her in my life, she will continue to live in our hearts and memories .

Sharon Atkin

March 19, 2018

I was shocked to open my email from the Academy and receive the news of this devastating loss. I met Gay through VA optometry early in her career and we became great friends for many years and served together on the board of NAVAO of a number of years . As others have mentioned I had no idea she was ill. This is a great loss, not only for her family and friends but also her potential students and residents, her patients and the profession of optometry as a whole. She was a dynamo and was always so positive and cheerful. She will be greatly missed.


March 19, 2018

Gay, exuded caring and special talent in dealing with her patients. Even as a student at Cal

Later, I interacted with her in the American Academy of Optometry and was always impressed with her stirring energy and commitment to service,advancing the causes that she clearly loved.

I believe Gay will be missed tremendously by the many who enjoyed her dedicated approach to commited service by helping others.

Tony Adams OD, PhD FAAO
Professor & Dean Emeritus
UCB School of Optometry
Past President, American Academy of Optometry [AAO] and American Optometric Foundation [AOF, now AAOF]

james hoekel

March 19, 2018

I think I met Gay at my first Academy meeting and I was awestruck by her energy and enthusiasm for Optometry. I volunteered to help her committee thinking she would be an outstanding mentor and colleague. 15 meetings later, I can say with a sorrowful heart that I will miss her and will think of her smile and her willingness to help her fellow man. Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη is Greek for Memory be Eternal. we pray that her memory will be eternal. May our God bless her husband and family as they cope with their loss.