Jean Yaeko Koda

KODA, YAYEKO JEAN died quietly in Turlock, Calif. on July 13, 2011. Born on March 19, 1919, she was 92 years old.

Keen businesswoman, role model, green thumb, bridge player, karaoke enthusiast and Tai chi devotee, Jean can be remembered for many such attributes, but perhaps none so much as her fierce devotion to family. As one of 13 siblings, she hosted family reunions every Fourth of July to bring together aunties, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins galore. As the family expanded exponentially over the generations, she worried that centrifugal force would pull them apart. Happily, she was able to attend her last reunion on July 2nd before her death.

After the death of her husband William S. Koda in 1961, Jean was a single mother who led by example. Her children became strong-minded and independent like her. Although Jean was herself unable to afford a college education, both of her girls went on to get college degrees. Carole Lynn Koda, who pre-deceased her in 2006, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford and became a writer, oral historian and environmentalist. Mary Anne Koda-Kimble earned a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of California at San Francisco School of Pharmacy, where she is now the dean. She was the proud and supportive grandmother of Scott Banks Kimble, Loren Koda Kimble, Christopher Kei Kimble, Kiyomi Nicole Kimble, Mika Koda Reynolds, Robin Koda Steffensen and Thomas Reynolds, who married Mika. She was recently blessed with a great-grandson, Christopher “Kip” Koda Reynolds. Jean adored her sons-in-law, Donald O. Kimble and Gary S. Snyder. She is survived and beloved by two devoted siblings, Goro Walter Morimoto and Harue June Kishi; their spouses, Mitsuko Morimoto and Sherman Kishi; as well as a multitude of cousins, nieces and nephews.

Following internment during World War II, Jean worked with her husband to rebuild the Koda rice farm in South Dos Palos, Calif. When Bill died, Jean worked with her brother-in-law, Ed Koda, to sustain and grow the farm. The Bill and Ed Koda Farms were best known for the short-grain Kokuho Rose rice, which they developed, the Sho-Chiku-Bai sweet rice, and Blue Star Mochiko (sweet rice flour). She eventually sold her share of the farm to the Ed Koda family and focused her attention on investing.

With an acumen for business, Jean loved to share her expertise with others. She was a member of investment clubs and formed the Merry Widows Club to teach money-management skills to women who found themselves financially confused after the loss of their husbands.

Yayeko Jean Koda was a generous woman with an energetic spirit who enjoyed and celebrated many friendships. Her wise and loving counsel will be greatly missed.

A service celebrating Jean’s life will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011 at the Larsa Banquet Hall, 2107 E. Monte Vista Ave., Denair, Calif. In lieu of koden or flowers, please remember Jean through a donation to your preferred charity or to The Covenant Village of Turlock Benevolent Care Fund, 2125 N. Olive Avenue, Turlock, CA 95382-1903 with attention to Patrice Lesondak.

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