OBITUARY: Clarine Ethel (Matsuda) Sunada

Clarine Ethel (Matsuda) Sunada

Nov. 10, 1923 – May 12, 2022

Clarine Ethel (Matsuda) Sunada

SUNADA, CLARINE ETHEL (MATSUDA) enjoyed a most fulfilling and memorable ninety eight year life which ended peacefully on May 12, 2022 after a short bout with pneumonia. She is survived by her daughter Gayle Yasutake (Robert) and sons Craig Sunada (Yi) and Les Sunada, five grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband of 61 years, Frank Sunada (1920-2010).

Clarine was born the youngest of twelve children (three brothers and eight sisters) on November 10, 1923 to parents Suekichi and Ichi (Inouye) Matsuda in Petaluma, CA. Her parents immigrated from Hiroshima, Japan in the early 1900’s seeking a new and possibly better life in the USA. They eventually settled in Petaluma obtaining a small ranch on the outskirts of the city limits where they raised poultry and vegetables. Clarine graduated from Petaluma High School in 1941 and briefly attended Santa Rosa Junior College. In 1942 her family was subject to the Executive Order 9066 and incarcerated at the relocation center in Amache, CO.

Clarine applied for and was eventually accepted to the government program which allowed incarcerated students to attend college. She attended Chillicothe Business College in Missouri, where she completed a secretarial course. After the war, she later worked in New York City where she lived with two of her sisters, Chiyoko and Helen. As a young adult she was personable and outgoing and an active participant in many organizations.

Clarine later returned to Petaluma to help her parents on the ranch. During this time she attended a reunion of friends in NYC and rekindled a friendship with her future husband, Frank Sunada. They married on June 12,1949 in Oakland, CA and remained a happily married couple until Frank’s death in September 2010. They began their life together in Petaluma eventually building a home on the same property as her parents. Later in 1967 they built their “dream home” on the hillside of their former poultry ranch.

While raising three children, Clarine worked as the school secretary at Petaluma Jr. High School for 19 years. She enjoyed her “PJHS family” and was respected by staff and teachers who were impressed with her organizational skills and “take charge” attitude. Many thought she was “the boss”! She was very active in the Japanese American community in Sonoma County involved in the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and Enmanji Buddhist Church.

Clarine valued her family and took pride in her children and their families. Even when times were a little tough in early years, she made sure her children were happy. In an effort to keep her children aware of their cultural heritage, Clarine began taking Gayle to Odori (Japanese Classical Dance) lessons in San Francisco. But soon she found she also wanted to take lessons and was quite good. Good enough that in 1969, under the direction of her instructor Madame Michiya Hanayagi, she went to Japan to take the examination to earn the status of Natori and given the professional name of Yaemichi Hanayagi. She enjoyed assisting in the Michiya Hanayagi School in spreading the Japanese culture to the local community. She continued to dance well into her 80’s!!

In the late 1970’s after Clarine retired from the secretarial world, she embarked on a dream career. She always had a love for beauty and fashion and in her 60’s with her determination and enthusiasm, she attended the Bjorn Beauty School in Vallejo and earned a Cosmetology license. With their children pursuing their own careers, Frank and Clarine sold their Petaluma “Dream Home” and moved to the South Bay to be closer to their children and where they eventually called San Jose their home. After getting some initial experience, she opened her own beauty salon, Creative Cuts, in San Jose. Clarine enjoyed styling hair and giving her customers the most satisfying service. Clarine successfully managed Creative Cuts for10 years.

After two fulfilling careers, Clarine was not about to stay at home. After closing her business, she volunteered for Yu-Ai-Kai Senior Center and eventually became a part time receptionist there. Not only did she enjoy working there but also enjoyed participating in many activities including Karaoke and Odori and looked forward to the exercise classes and socializing with her friends. She has made many great friendships through her association with Yu Ai Kai and was grateful for the opportunity to support them. She attended activities at Yu Ai Kai faithfully and was very sad when the pandemic hit and she wasn’t able to engage with the Yu Ai Kai community.

In lieu of flowers and other offerings, the family requests donations be made to the San Jose Buddhist Church (640 N. 5th St., San Jose 95112) or Yu-Ai Kai Japanese American Community Senior Service (588 N. 4th St, San Jose 95112).

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