OBITUARY: Hiroshi Leo Saito

Hiroshi Leo Saito

Hiroshi Leo Saito

SAITO, HIROSHI LEO, passed away in his Oakland home on April 28, 2015, at the age of 99 years, 7 months and 5 days. He looked forward to seeing his beloved wife of 60 years, Margaret Shizuko Saito. Also to greet him would be his parents, Keizo and Kuni (Mano) Saito, younger brother David Hideo Saito of Oakland/San Jose, older sister Margaret Taiko Saito of Oakland/Davis, son-in-law John Wesley Golden, and his oldest friends including Nobuo “Nob” Kajiwara, Ichiro “Ish” Isokawa, George “Korn” Kondo, Toshi “Tosh” Ogawa, James “Jim” Hoshi, William “Billy” Iino, Donald “Babe” Iyeki, Michael “Mike” Morizono.

Leo was born in San Francisco; the family moved to Oakland a year later where his parents began a shoe business and a dry cleaning establishment. Leo attended Oakland public schools, graduating from University (UNI) High School. He attended the University of California at Berkeley (Cal), UC San Francisco Medical School where he studied dentistry. In the lead up to World War II, the US Army drafted Leo’s entire dental class. During the 1942 forced incarceration of Japanese Americans into concentration camps (“relocation centers”), Nisei soldiers (American-born US citizens, second-generation of Japanese descent) were not permitted to travel to assist their parents/families in packing the allowed two-suitcases per person & leaving the rest including houses to be sold for pennies on the dollar or abandoned. As soon as he could, Leo visited his parents at the camp in Topaz, Utah. It was there that Leo and Margaret became engaged and were wed. They were grateful to the Nisei women for saving & pooling their sugar & flour ration coupons to make a wedding cake.

Leo’s army unit was attached to the 442nd Regiment for a time; his unit eventually deployed to European Theater of Operations under General Patton.

While he was overseas, Margaret gave birth to their first child in the Topaz infirmary. One year later, Leo completed his military term & returned to Oakland where his parents, wife & child had settled after the post-war disbandment of Topaz. Finally, Leo met his daughter Janet. The family grew to include daughter Nancy, son Robert and daughter Patricia, and ultimately a wonderful grandson, Parker Hecht, for whom they were so thankful. Also welcomed into the family were John Golden (Janet), Richard Hollembeak (Nancy), Elvyn Blair (Robert), Peter Hecht (Pat).

Leo practiced dentistry for 60 years, where he, “…did a lot of good for a lot of people.” He loved fishing & golfing! Margaret was such a good sport, willing to go camping & fishing whenever and wherever. Leo’s mind & sense of humor remained clear, sharp, and curious to the end; he would have continued traveling, eating delicious foods, meeting new people, and enjoying many more times with family and friends.

Leo was a forward-thinking man who liked to be prepared and organized. He wanted an informal gathering at the Lake Merritt Sailboat House next to the duck pond (568 Bellevue Ave., Oakland). Though not due to reopen till September, the Sailboat House mysteriously became available; Leo’s Remembrance & Celebration will be held there on Sunday afternoon, June 28, 2015, 1:30-4:30. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the charity of your choice.

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