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Chapter 23, 'Legacy'

Chapter 23, ‘Legacy’

At the time of her death Mizuko had twenty-six grandchildren and twenty (the number grew to a total of forty in the ensuing years) great grand-children. She was survived by four sons: Takuma Henry (Mikako) of Monterey Park, California, Jiro Sam (Masaye) of San Gabriel, California, Kaworu Carl (Mieko Louise) of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and James Yoshito (Margaret) of San Jose, California; two daughters, Yoshiko (Isamu) Hasegawa of San Ysidro, California, and Ayako (Edward) Machida of West Covina, California; and two step-daughters, Chiyoko Matsushima of Nishinomiya, Japan and Shigeko Oshiba of San Jose, California.

In 1987, a year after Mizuko died, her eldest son Takuma Henry returned to Japan for the first time in sixty years to retrieve the ashes of his father: Kazuichi Nomura, Mizuko’s late husband. After Kazuichi’s death in 1930, his eldest daughter Chiyoko had been the custodian of the urn containing his ashes (see ‘The Fire Woman Burns through Life’ in the Appendix to see why Chiyoko had her father’s funerary urn).

Henry decided to retrieve his father's ashes and reunite them with those of his recently interred mother. When he returned to America, he put them in the Nomura family crypt at the Evergreen Cemetery in East Los Angeles. Fatefully, Mizuko’s troublesome, mercurial, and enigmatic long-dead husband rejoined her in death.

Mizuko was renown for her humility, shunning the limelight whenever possible. She would have scoffed at the notion that she was in any way responsible for a legacy of achievement. But if it were not for her tenacity in raising her children well in the face of tremendous hardship, the Nomura family would not be what it is today.

Her work ethic and kindness were second to none. When asked later in life about her hopes for her children and what they might accomplish she said, “They did OK. None of them ended up in jail.”

That humorous understatement completely belies what her family has been able to achieve. In the years following her death. Her children, their children, and their children’s children have far exceeded her minimal expectations.

Her descendants include artists, writers, scientists, programmers, engineers, teachers, counselors, businessmen and women, university professors, doctors, and many other productive members of society. No one, as of yet (knock on wood) has ended up in jail.

Each owes a substantial portion of their inherited sense of gaman, the ability to persevere to Mizuko Nomura. Mizuko’s ability to telling a compelling story has been passed on as well. The author is only one of many of her progeny that love telling and hearing a good tale.

Mizuko Takahashi Nomura was a seemingly ordinary person who met the challenges of being a woman, a mother, an immigrant, and a racial minority during a tumultuous and defining period in U.S. and Japanese history. She did so through a series of actions that feel extraordinary and larger-than-life.

But Mizuko was never one to call attention to herself, doing only ”what needs to be done” regardless of the circumstances or consequences, with humility and grace. Her sense of humor and compassion for others allowed her and her family to not only ‘stay out of jail’ but to maintain a healthy perspective on life, its trials, and its blessings. Like many immigrants before and since, Mizuko had an indelible influence on her family and friends, and by extension, her adopted country.

end of Chapter 23, 'Legacy' and the final chapter in 'Standing Tall: The Extra/Ordinary Life of Mizuko Takahashi Nomura'

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