Etsu Mineta Masaoka, a longtime member of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and widow of one of the organization’s leading icons, passed away in Maryland. Born May 14, 1916, she was 95.
Mineta attended most of the National JACL Conventions during the past 60 years. She was the sister of Norman Mineta, whose political career included serving on the San Jose City Council, and on two Presidential Cabinets. She was the wife of Mike Masaoka, a World War II veteran and controversial wartime leader of the JACL who advocated that Nikkei cooperate with the government during the war.
The former Ambassador of Japan to the United States Ryozo Kato personally honored her in 2004. “We must recognize what Etsu Masaoka has meant not only for her husband and family, but what a vital role that she, like her husband, has played in creating closer ties between the U.S. and Japan,” Kato said, according to a JACL statement.
Mike Masaoka also once said, “Etsu deserves an equal share of the credit for anything I may have been able to accomplish.”
The two first met on a Greyhound bus ride from San Francisco to the JACL convention in Monterey in 1941 and later that night at a dance.
She was sent to Heart Mountain, Wyo. along with her family, but chose to leave for Salt Lake City to marry Mike Masaoka in 1943. She did not know that he had already volunteered for the Army when she arrived.
Mineta was born the second of five children to Kunisaku and Kane Mineta. Her father arrived in the United States in 1902 from Japan at the age of 14. He had planned to return home after learning new farming skills, but instead remained to found the Mineta Insurance Agency in San Jose.
Masaoka was preceded in death by her husband and two children, Michael and Midori. She is survived by her granddaughter, Michelle Amano and son-in-law Richard Amano.
Accuracy is fundamental in journalism. In the June 9-15, 2011 issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly, the “Etsu Mineta Masaoka dies” article erroneously stated that Etsu Mineta Masaoka was the brother of Norman Mineta. She was his sister. The Nichi Bei Weekly regrets the error.