OBITUARY: George Muneichi Yamasaki

YAMASAKI, GEORGE MUNEICHI, 105, passed away peacefully at home in Auburn, Calif., on Saturday, February 13, 2010,

He was born in Osaka, Japan, July 13, 1904, to Zenkichi and Kikuyo Yamasaki, and came to the United States at the age of 13 to join his father in Auburn, Calif. He married Shigeyo Fujitani in 1926, and celebrated 81 years of marriage before her death in 2007.

He is survived by his seven children Jean Kaneko, Tomiko Yabumoto, Ray (Irene) Yamasaki, Evelyn (Herb) Umeda, Betty (Eddie) Nishikawa, Don (Chere) Yamasaki and Edith (Robert) Yamasaki, 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

He attended Edgewood School, a one room school house, located on Mt. Vernon Road in the Edgewood district of Auburn.

In 1917, he joined his father growing fruit trees for sale to orchards throughout California, and together they started a fruit tree nursery. In 1926, he and his wife Shigeyo expanded the nursery to include ornamental plants, landscape construction, rock walls and bonsai. Except for the three years spent at the Tule Lake Internment camp during WWII, he lived in Auburn.

In 1953, Yamasaki Nursery was moved from Bean and Kemper Road to Highway 49 and New Airport Road, where his sons Ray and Don joined their parents in the family business.

George’s artistic talents and achievements in landscape are evident throughout the region in both public and private Japanese gardens including the Wakamatsu Silk and Tea Colony Memorial in Gold Hill, the Placer Buddhist Church in Penryn, the Buddhist Church of Sacramento, and the San Francisco Japanese Community Center Garden.

George has received many prestigious awards and recognitions in his lifetime including: Japan Agricultural Society’s Award, for work in agriculture, nursery, landscape and bonsai; Circle of Sensei Award, from the Golden State Bonsai Federation to honor individuals for the teaching of the art of bonsai and to the cultural understanding of the art form; Japanese Counsel General Keiro Kai Award,“A Day of Respect for the Aged,” given to centenarians.

He had a passion for bonsai and suiseki (the Japanese art of stone appreciation). He enjoyed gathering and collecting native conifer specimens from the Sierras and would train and shape them into magnificent bonsai. One of his most prized living works of art was a native Sierra juniper that he shaped for years. It was prominently displayed in the California State Capitol for the Queen of England’s visit in 1983 to California. He fondly named it the Queen’s Tree.

As a founding member of both the Sacramento Bonsai Club and the Sierra Bonsai Club of Placer County he shared his talents with many through bonsai demonstrations and classes.

George and his wife enjoyed traveling, and visited throughout the contiguous United States. He also traveled internationally to Canada, Mexico, Italy, France, Switzerland, Korea and took many trips to Japan.

He will be remembered for his devotion to his family. He loved to have his house full of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family is thankful for all the time and experiences he shared and will greatly miss his presence.

A funeral service will be held Saturday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m., at the Placer Buddhist Church, 3192 Boyington Road, Penryn, CA 95663.

Private family burial services will be held at the Auburn Cemetery.

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