MIZONO, WILLIAM ISAMU, beloved husband, father, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at the age of 92, surrounded by his family on July 24, 2021 in Walnut Creek, California. Born in San Francisco, he was the youngest son of Saichi and Matsuyo Mizono.
In February 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, Bill’s parents Saichi and Matsuyo Mizono purchased Azumaya, a San Francisco Bay Area tofu manufacturing business. His parents gifted Azumaya to their eldest son, George Mizono who then brought in his brother and new partner, Jack Mizono. In 1942, the Mizono family was forced to close their tofu operation, and like most West Coast Japanese Americans during World War II, they were incarcerated into relocation camps.
Marked by the post-World War II in 1945, and after Bill and his family were interned at Central Utah WRA Project Topaz, Utah, he served in the Army based at Stuttgart Germany from 1950-1953.
In August 1953, Bill married his beautiful wife, Dorothy Toshiko Yamamoto from Alameda, California and worked various jobs in the floral and dry-cleaning segment.
His brothers, George and Jack reopened Azumaya in 1946. In 1962, Bill joined Azumaya and brothers, George, Jack and John Mizono. By 1973, he created and implemented marketing point of sale materials to launch packaged tofu including other Asian specialty products into mainstream supermarkets. From 1976, as a tofu pioneer, he marketed and drove sales outside of California into Oregon, Washington and East Coast super markets. There was no stopping him, as he was driven to conquer the whole U.S. marketplace with national distribution. His merchandising programs for holiday themes like “Chinese New Year” was pivotal to putting Azumaya on the map.
Bill was a celebrated patron, contributor and forager during his career at Azumaya. Financial wealth was not his driver but by becoming America’s largest manufacturer and distributor of tofu, pasta and specialty products, a “One-Stop-Shop” facility with distribution to over 4,500 major retail stores he created a “Tofu Legacy”. A national industry newspaper named “Produce News” featured an article written by Rand Green recognized Bill as the “King of Soft Sell” because of his charisma and natural talent to connect with corporate executives through his infectious and entertaining personality. He brought Asian products to the forefront by selling and creating many soy-based products, chiefly “Stir Fruity” a soy-based yogurt with fruit – many called it soy yogurt. Stir Fruity was launched nationwide into retail produce departments from the late 1980s. He was a visionary, an entrepreneur, industry leader and innovator of new products, light years ahead of his competitors.
When Azumaya was sold in 1993, Bill retired as Owner/President and a “Tofu Icon” who revolutionized and branded Azumaya as a household name throughout the United States, Hawaii and Canada.
With his comic poet personality, he developed many friendships throughout the produce industry and walks of life, but most of all he treasured and loved his Wife, Dorothy and his family. He was an inspiration to all, quick witted, charming and had a passion for making people laugh. Bill was a talented artist, enjoyed sports, fishing and loved to play golf, especially with his Wife, Dorothy. They worked together, traveled together and loved each other endlessly. It is with piercing sorrow that Bill has passed. He was our heartbeat and best friend.
Predeceased by parents Saichi and Matsuyo Mizono, brothers George, Jack, John, and sisters Mary Ishida and Arrice Mori. Survived by his beloved Wife, Dorothy Toshiko of 68 years. Each and every day of his life, his love for Dorothy was “love-at-first-sight”. Together, they raised their family and is survived by their children Laurence Mizono (Maria), Jill Mizono and Peggy Mizono (Rick); Grandchildren Michelle Solano (Christian), Anthony Mizono (Jennifer), Kevin Videtta, Cristobal Arras (Angela), Dorothy Mizono; and Great-grandchildren Kalea Solano, Christian Solano, Mia Aguilar and Liam Aguilar; Sister-in-laws Yoshi Mizono, Ellen Yamamoto, Kazuko Yamamoto, Jane Yamamoto and Connie Yamamoto (Scott); along with many Nieces, Nephews, Grandnieces and Grandnephews. His fondest and everlasting love was his sweet adorable pet, Cookie whom never left his side.
You cannot lose a person, only their body, for the rest of them can be found in your heart and mind.