By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Raymond Jiro Takisaki passed away on Dec. 10 from cancer. He was 85.
Takisaki had eight siblings and was living in Seattle when the United States entered World War II. His mother, Mine Takehana, died soon after she gave birth to her last child. Takisaki and his siblings were raised by their father, Tomotsu S. Takizaki (the spelling of the surname was later changed), a grocery store and antique store owner, who was born in Tokyo.
“When the war broke out, they lost the grocery store,” said Phyllis Campbell, Takisaki’s daughter and chairman of JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s Pacific Northwest business. “That’s when the family got all scattered.”
Takizaki had a great interest in art through his antique store and was a leader in the community. He often held gatherings in his house on Capitol Hill.
“The FBI was watching and thinking he was anti-American,” said Campbell. “The FBI came and arrested him first. My father says he remembered two or three men at the door. They told [my grandfather] to get his toothbrush and leave with them. My grandfather went to a military detention center in Fort Lincoln (N.D.).”
The rest of the family members were forced to decide who would get out first. Takisaki and three of his siblings were sent to Spokane to stay with the Clausens, a white family. “They were able to get out before the second major internment,” said Campbell.
Takisaki’s other siblings stayed behind to try to sell their grocery store. They ended up being interned at Minidoka in Idaho.
In Spokane, Takisaki attended high school at Gonzaga Preparatory School.
Takisaki was an extrovert. “The thing about my father that was such a remarkable characteristic for a Nisei was that he was very open and talked about his experiences more than most in that generation,” said Campbell. “He talked about not being able to find a job [because he was Japanese].
When he bought his first house, the neighbors launched a petition [against it].”
Though there weren’t many Japanese in Spokane at the time and Takisaki faced discrimination, he maintained a positive outlook. “That was the endearing thing about him, always persistent, always looking at the bright side,” said Campbell.
Takisaki didn’t have the opportunity to get a college education. “He worked when he was in high school. [He] didn’t have the money. War was going on,” said Campbell.
However, Takisaki believed in the importance of a good education and encouraged his children to pursue it. “He wanted all of us to get a college education,” said Campbell. “He said, ‘It’s very important for you to have the options. I didn’t have those options. Even if you want to be a dry cleaner, it’s good to have options.’ ”
All of Takisaki’s five children are college educated.
Despite the persecution of Japanese Americans during the war, Takisaki maintained his sense of patriotism. He joined the U.S. Army in 1944.
He was part of the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment, an Asian American unit composed mostly of Japanese Americans and the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. “The reason [the unit] was formed was to show that Japanese Americans were citizens and were loyal,” said Campbell. “It was a way to get past discrimination.” Unfortunately, Takisaki broke his arm during training and never saw combat duty. He was discharged in 1946.
With a Japanese American business partner, George Kuriowa, Takisaki opened a dry cleaning business called Beacon Cleaners.
Takisaki married Marion Mihara in 1950. From Hawaii, Mihara attended Holy Names College in Spokane and studied medical technology. She would eventually work at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Mihara passed away in 1991.
After her death, Takisaki felt lonely, as there weren’t many Japanese Americans for him to socialize with. He decided to move back to Seattle, where he participated in activities with other Nisei, such as dances.
It was at a dance that he met Louise Kashino (now Louise Kashino Takisaki). They married in October 2004. “It turned out to be one of the most wonderful, great relationships of his life,” said Campbell.
In Seattle, Takisaki devoted much of his time and energy working for the nonprofit Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC) and in renovating the Nisei Veterans Hall, which was completed in 2008.
“He always felt that he wanted to have participated when the 442 went overseas,” said Kashino Takisaki. “Since he wasn’t able to, he wanted to give back. He saw my relationship with the Nisei Veterans Committee, he saw how active I was, he saw all the pictures and what was exhibited. … He wanted to do his share. He thought [helping with] the remodeling [of the Nisei Veterans Hall] would be his contribution.”
“In some ways, he was reclaiming some of his roots in Seattle,” said Campbell. “He really got involved in a cause that was important to him — he really embraced the project by raising money and working to build that hall. He wanted the vets’ legacy to be honored.”
Some may remember him for his dedicated work with the NVC, but others remember him for his bright outlook. “He was not the average Nisei,” said Kashino Takisaki. “He had a wonderful smile for everything. That’s what everyone’s been telling me — they remember the twinkle in his eyes and his smile. … We had a great relationship in the five years we were married. As much as I regret losing him, I’m glad that we had the time that we had.”
Takisaki is survived by Kashino Takisaki, his wife, and five children and their spouses: Phyllis and Bill Campbell, Tom Takisaki, Greg and Doreen Takisaki, Walt and Pam Takisaki, and Ann and Ron Wentzke. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, his brother, Jim Takisaki, and sisters, Mary Yuasa and Agnes Havlis. ♦
A memorial service to celebrate Takisaki’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15 at Blaine Memorial Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Taksaki’s honor to the NVC Foundation (PO Box 3042, Seattle, WA 98114) or Blaine Memorial Methodist Church (3001 24th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144).
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.