LETTERS: Memories of Cypress House, aka JASEB Home

Note: This letter was sent in response to Ben Hamamoto’s “JASEB to Stop Operating Homes for Japanese American Seniors” article, Feb. 4, 2010.

Dear Editor,

After 20-plus years of operation, the Cypress House has many stories to tell. There must be hundreds. This is one of them.

My mother, Hede Takao Shirasawa, was a resident there from 1992 until 1996. At the beginning, her space was a shared bedroom in a former split-level, three-bedroom home. She then resided in the newly constructed JASEB Home from 1995 until her passing in 1996.

A strong bond developed in 1992 among the resident families, because of the threat of Cypress House losing its exempt status and becoming a licensed facility. If licensed, the state would dictate which residents could remain based on their medical evaluation. This was of immediate concern to all of us.

An attorney was hired by the families to negotiate with the state authorities. Initially, the JASEB board did not support the families. However, at one of their meetings, Bob Sakai urged the board to help offset the legal costs with a donation. Thus, the final legal costs were shared by JASEB, the Cypress House and Channing Way House families. The exemption was successfully renewed with a confirmation letter received in December of 1994.

The Cypress House continued to be a happy environment with student helpers and committed full-time employees. The medical care for the residents remained the responsibility of each resident family as agreed upon with the state.

For minor problems, I would contact our primary care physician. For serious conditions, I would have Masa (Fukuizumi) transport my mother to Alta Bates Hospital, and I would meet them there. For dental care, one of the students would accompany us for the trip to San Francisco.

By 1993, my mother’s condition was such that she required a wheelchair and a feeding tube. The staff handled it for her, and a VNA nurse would make regular visits for tube maintenance and replacement.

I was able to make daily visits throughout most of mother’s stay. On Sundays, Rev. Dan Shinoda would take my place. He and his wife would stop by after church to see everyone.

My departures in the evening were so pleasant. I would say, “onegai shimasu” to the night watch persons, they in turn would bow and respond. Those days at Cypress House were full of pleasant memories thanks to the staff, the students and Masa.

I’m glad there was a Cypress House for my mother.

Tak Shirasawa
Berkeley, Calif.

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