OBITUARY: Anne Yamasaki

courtesy of George Yamasaki Jr.

Anne S. Yamasaki, a noted calligrapher and volunteer for several organizations both within and outside of the Japanese American community, passed away from pneumonia on May 16, 2010. She had been battling lung cancer. A volunteer with several community groups and charitable causes, she passed away the day before her 74th birthday at the Pacific Campus of the California Pacific Medical Center, said her husband, George Yamasaki Jr.

“She just couldn’t fight it,” he said, remembering his late wife as a “wonderful, kind, loving, cheerful” person. “She had a sense of humor until the end.”

George Yamasaki Jr. has been the voice of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival for decades, serving as its emcee almost all of its 43 years.

According to her widower, Yamasaki’s cancer “went back many years” without showing itself. “We missed all the signals,” said George Yamasaki Jr., who along with his wife volunteered for the American Cancer Society.

Although she was officially diagnosed with lung cancer by mid-December of 2009, she had apparently been suffering for about a year. “The doctors misdiagnosed the complaints,” Yamasaki Jr. said, noting that his wife was in and out of the hospital four times over the last six months.

His late wife was involved in a “lot of things,” Yamasaki Jr. said, and people from one phase of her life don’t really know about the others.

Anne Yamasaki was a distinguished calligrapher, serving as president of the Friends of Calligraphy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She also volunteered her calligraphy for Bread and Roses, an organization “dedicated to uplifting the human spirit by providing free, live, quality shows to people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society.”

In the community, she was involved in such organizations as the Japan Society of Northern California, and the National Japanese American Historical Society, on whose board she served. Yamasaki had also helped with the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s public relations’ efforts in the past. Both Anne and George Yamasaki were honored at the Senior Appreciation Brunch at this spring’s Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival for their assistance with the annual celebration of Japanese culture.

She also served on the advisory committee of the Hotel Restaurant Management School at Golden Gate University, and was involved in a program that gave happiness to elderly shut-ins.

“Behind every good man is an even better woman, and in George and Anne’s case, this was never more true,” said Allen Okamoto, co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. “George was a part of the Japanese American scene but he would not have been able to do as much or as well without the support of his love, Anne.”

“We were a team,” said Yamasaki Jr. “I really miss her.”

She leaves her husband George, daughter Susan Okimoto, stepchildren Emily and Paul Yamasaki, brother Leigh Sakamaki, two grandchildren, two stepgrandchildren and many other relatives as well as countless friends.

She will be remembered on Saturday, June 26, 3:30 p. m., at the Issei Memorial Hall, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St., in San Francisco’s Japantown.

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