Benkyodo confectionary matriarch dies

Sue Okamura, the matriarch of the family that has run the Benkyodo confectionary for 105 years, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Oct. 29, 2011. She was 85.

Sue Suyeko Kurihara was born on April 1, 1926 in Sacramento, Calif. to parents Yujiro Kurihara and Funari Matsuda, the third child among siblings Mary Hamada, Pete Kurihara and Lorraine Suzuki. Tragically orphaned as young children, Sue and her siblings were sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Marysville, Calif.

As with all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast during World War II, Okamura was forcibly relocated and incarcerated in a concentration camp — in her case, in Granada (Amache) in Colorado. There, she met the man she would later marry. Hirofumi Okamura, “Hippo” to his friends, married Sue before going off in the army.

After the war, the couple settled in San Francisco, where they raised five children: sons Randy, Reese, Rick, Bob and daughter, Jackie. Okamura lived a busy life with raising five children, keeping house and helping her husband run the family business, Benkyodo Company.

She was diabetic and had other medical conditions in her later adult life. There were times when her health was in such serious condition that it required prolonged medical treatment and hospitalization.

In August 2011, she was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure with her kidneys functioning at less than 10 percent. The doctor told her that she would immediately require dialysis treatments three days a week, two hours per day for the rest of her life. Without hesitation, she refused the dialysis treatment, and became fully accepting of her life nearing the end.

On Sept. 7, she entered the Coming Home Hospice where she was a favorite among staff and physicians.

Services were held on Nov. 11 at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to Kimochi or the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

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