Stanley Tadao Aoyagi
Stanley Tadao Aoyagi

AOYAGI, STANLEY TADAO, 89, passed away peacefully at his home in Belmont, California, on May 23, 2015. Born to Yoshitoshi and Shigeo Aoyagi in San Diego, California, on July 26, 1925, Stanley’s early years were filled with love and some challenges as his parents worked to make ends meet to provide for him and his sister, Toshiko. The Aoyagi family eventually settled in Alameda, California, to be close to Stanley’s grandmother, Yaye Aoyagi. Yaye Aoyagi was one of the founding members of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church which explains Stanley’s spotless Sunday School attendance record while growing up in Alameda. Although Stanley was oftentimes known to be a rambunctious youngster, he was an avid reader and the public library was one of his favorite hang-outs. One of his proudest accomplishments growing up was reading the most books of any junior high student during the summer vacation period at Alameda Public Library.

Throughout his life, Stanley felt proud be an American and blessed to be able to grow up in the U.S.A., the only place in the world that provides the opportunities to succeed. At the onset of World War II, the Aoyagi family endured some hardship when they were interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah in 1942. However, Stanley’s time in internment was limited. By enlisting in the U.S. Army, he was allowed to leave the camp and he decided to attend college while waiting for his draft number to come up. He was accepted to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa (a college he was encouraged to attend due to his family’s ties to the Methodist Church). However, he would stay there for only two months as he was drafted soon after in 1943. Yet Stanley would often reminisce of his fond memories of Simpson College and how nice the students and faculty were.

Moreover, he would tell the story of how he had a run-in with the FBI soon after. Evidently upon getting his Army induction notice, he and his friend decided to take a trip to New York. Stanley being a “Depression Child” and therefore “cheap” decided that the best way to get there was the cheapest way, by freight car. His thinking was “You get there at the same time as the passenger car, what’s the difference?” Unfortunately, the FBI didn’t have the same opinion; they were doing security checks of the freight cars and Stanley and his friend were thrown in jail near the Chicago train yard. But Stanley often joked that he never ate so well as when he was in jail. He and his friend received three square meals a day including some delicious bacon. Upon receiving confirmation that Stanley was indeed soon to be inducted into the U.S. Army, the FBI paid for train tickets to New York for him and his friend.

As an Army officer, Stanley was sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Because he attended Japanese school on Saturdays and had some proficiency, he was transferred to the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, before being deployed to the Pacific in1945 to serve as a Japanese translator in Yokohama (Japan) and Busan (Korea). He was honorably discharged in August of 1946 and received 5 medals and citations for his participation in the Asia Pacific campaign.

With the help of the G.I. Bill, Stanley went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated in 1953 with a degree in Business Administration. While attending Cal, he joined the flying club where he earned a pilot’s license for light air crafts. It was his love of flying which motivated him to apply for a job at Japan Air Lines (JAL) where he was hired as a flight dispatcher in 1954. He was fascinated by the DC-6B propeller planes which had a capacity of 18 passengers. The flight from San Francisco to Tokyo took over 24 hours with stops to Honolulu, Wake Island, and San Francisco. He would explain that the role of the flight dispatcher was to understand the mechanics of airplanes to ensure that proper plans are made with fuel and expected head winds. He eventually became the Director of Flight Operations for the Americas.

It was during his time at Japan Air Lines that Stanley met and married his wife, Kyoko, in what would be a marriage of nearly 60 years. Together, they traveled the globe and raised their children, Matthew and Margaret. Like many Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) Stanley was not quick to express his emotions, yet he did convey to others how proud he was of his kids and how fortunate he was to be married to Kyoko, a woman with a zest for life. A devoted Bay Area resident, Stanley was an ardent San Francisco 49ers fan and could often be found glued to the TV watching their games. A loving family survives him including his wife Kyoko; son Matthew and daughter Margaret; grandsons Mark, Luke and Miles; daughter-in-law Nagako and son-in-law Andrew. Private viewings of Stanley were held on May 29th and June 1st, 2015.  An interment of his ashes is scheduled for August 14th, 2015 @ 11:00am at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, CA, and a memorial service / celebration of his life is scheduled for the following day on August 15th, 2015 at 11:00am at the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, CA.

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