George Toshiyuki Teraoka

May 13, 1921 – Dec. 26, 2023

TERAOKA, T. GEORGE passed away on December 26, 2023 at age 102, in his home, surrounded by family. Born in Lodi, George graduated from Fowler High School in 1939. He was a grower, farmer, food processor, inventor, as well as a mentor to many, and a dedicated community servant. George became a living legend in the Central Valley.

In 1942, at 21, George and his family were interned in Jerome, Arkansas. There, he met a Buddhist minister who started him on his life-long study of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. George was permitted to work in St. Louis, Missouri while his family was moved to Rohwer camp. Knowledgeable in electronics, he repaired juke boxes and electrical equipment. In St. Louis, George met and married Mary Nobuko Kawahara of Portland, Oregon (via Minidoka) and they had 2 sons, Tom and Steven. George joined the US Army and was placed on reserve. He and Mary returned to Fowler in 1950, where they had 3 more children, Robert, Janet and Kathy.

In Fowler, George farmed a variety of crops, and grew the family farms into one of the largest producers of boysenberries in the country. He invented the first boysenberry mechanical harvester.

George lived a long, rich and incredible life dedicated to family, community service, youth mentoring and church leadership. George volunteered as Cub Scout Pack 390 leader for his sons, and later as Boy Scout Troop 390 leader. He stayed active in Scouting for over 25 years, serving as Council Commissioner of the Sequoia Council and as a Cabinet Member of the Western Region of the Boy Scouts of America, earning the “Sequoia Medal” and the “Silver Beaver Award,” the Boy Scouts’ highest service awards.

George chaired the California State Bushberry Advisory Board and the Central California Farmers’ Co-op, and served as Vice Chairman of the Nisei Farmers’ League. He was a director on the Japanese American National Museum’s inaugural Board and President of the Japanese American Citizens League for Fowler. He served on the Board of Directors of the Fresno County Historical Society, and was named “Volunteer of the Year.” He served for two terms as a member of the Fresno County Grand Jury, and was active for 47 years in the scholarly Fowler Friday Evening Club.

Well-known in the Buddhist Church community, he served multiple terms as President of the Fowler Buddhist Church, was a Board member of the Buddhist Churches of America, and spoke at countless church conferences. For over 65 years, he taught Sunday Dharma School and was the Charter President of the Western Federation of Dharma School Teachers’ League. He encouraged youth and wrote many letters of recommendation.

His personal interests included scuba diving, operating HAM radio, Shigin (Japanese poetry) and piloting his own Cessna airplane on many trips. He and Mary loved ballroom dancing and helped to found the Fowler Dance Club.

In addition to awards in Scouting and agriculture, George earned numerous distinctions during his life, including the 2004 Fowler “Honored Pioneer” and the 2013 Fowler “Citizen of the Year.”

He was predeceased by his wife of 74 years, Mary Teraoka; his parents, Sawataro and Asano Teraoka; his sisters, Miki (Edward) Kurimura, Kaye (James) Hashimoto and Mari Teramoto; and grandson Michael Teraoka. He is survived by his five children, Tom (Jenny) Teraoka, Steve (Marsha) Teraoka, Robert Teraoka, Janet (Kodo) Umezu, and Kathy (Doren) Lee, as well as 9 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews, including Ken Hashimoto who resided with George in his final days.

George lived actively to the end, flying to Arkansas on a pilgrimage to Jerome as he turned 102 in May and then to Las Vegas to roll the dice last Fall. (He walked away a winner.) He lived his entire life with unwavering purpose: the pride and joy of his family and his abiding faith in the teachings of Buddha…to live a selfless life manifested in humility and gratitude for all.

Funeral services to be Saturday, January 27th at 10 am at the Fowler Buddhist Church located at 210 S. Ninth Street, Fowler, CA 93625.

A viewing to be Friday, January 26, 2024, from 4 pm to 7 pm at Wallin Funeral Home located at 302 E. Merced Street, Fowler, CA 93625.

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