FUJII KITAYAMA, KIMIKO “KIMI,” 97, passed away peacefully on March 27, 2019 at her home in Union City. Born February 11, 1922, the fourth of six children of Ryutaro and Katsu Yokobori Fujii, Kimi grew up on the family’s Hayward flower nursery. She was a freshman at UC Berkeley when she and her family along with all others of Japanese descent were forcibly moved to the Topaz War Relocation Center in the Utah desert. There, Kimi was an activities director of the camp “Teenettes,” and used her leadership skills to lend some semblance of normality for the younger detainees.
With the assistance of the Friends Service Committee, Kimi attended Brigham Young University and in 1947 graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Botany. After graduation, Kimi returned to Hayward to help revive and expand the family’s wholesale carnation growing business. Kimi became active in the California Council for Civic Unity and the Japanese American Citizens League, among many other civic organizations
For decades, Kimi was a leader in the Democratic Party and served on the executive board of the Democratic State Central Committee. She attended the Democratic National Conventions in 1960, 1964, and 1968. In 1972, she was the first woman and first Japanese-American to serve on the Alameda-Contra Costa District Transit Board and was later elected to two terms as President of the Board. Kimi also served as President of the Hayward Human Relations Commission and was named Hayward’s Distinguished Citizen for 1972 for her “tireless effort to make our community a better place and her willingness to serve mankind by involvement.”
In 1977, Kimi married Ray Kitayama, initially living in Brighton, Colorado and later in Homestead, Florida. In 1992, Kimi and Ray returned to Union City to retire and to continue world travels. In December 2009, the University of California at Berkeley awarded honorary diplomas to Kimi and 40 other Japanese American former students who were evacuated before completing their degrees. Kimi was predeceased by her husband Ray and her five siblings. She is survived by step-daughter Jean (Terry Gehrke), and stepsons Stuart (Carol), Robert (Karen), and Scott (Eva), 5 grandchildren, 6 nephews, and 3 nieces.
Memorial Service for Kimiko Fujii Kitayama will be held on Saturday May 4th at 2:00 at the San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church, 615 Lewelling Blvd., San Leandro, CA 94579.