Tomi Isono

Sept. 13, 1928 – Jan. 4, 2024

ISONO, TOMIO (TOMI) passed away peacefully on January 4, 2024, at the age of 95 in Daly City, California. She spent her early years on the family farm in Nevada, which was famous for growing Hearts of Gold cantaloupes. Tomi graduated from Armstrong College in Berkeley, California, then worked as an administrative assistant at Cutter Laboratories and later at the Asia Foundation in San Francisco.

In 1953, she married Masami (Sam) Isono and lived blissfully with him in San Francisco for the next 43 years. They were avid San Francisco Giants baseball fans and 49ers football season ticket holders. Tomi and Sam spent decades vacationing with relatives, camping and fishing near Lassen National Park and later hiking, hot tubbing and enjoying good restaurants in Lake Tahoe.

Tomi loved to go to Best of Broadway theater shows in San Francisco and play bridge at the Olympic Club. She was a superhero aunt who valued education and gave her nieces and nephews subscriptions to National Geographic Kids and Highlights magazines. She also introduced them to Japanese culture and values through Japanese traditions, foods, the Nichi Bei Times and Buddhism.

Tomi was a very active member of the Buddhist Church of Oakland. From early morning to evening, she worked tirelessly making and selling sushi at their bazaars and Obon festivals. She generously gave her nieces and nephews dinner and game tickets every year so they could enjoy the Church bazaars and immerse themselves in the Japanese community. Tomi also volunteered at Japanese American Services of the East Bay, preparing lunches for home deliveries. She enjoyed delighting others by making delicious sekihan, Christmas cookies and chocolate mousse cake and by bringing huge sushi platters and char siu baos to family gatherings. The customized birthday cakes that she made for her nieces and nephews were one-of-a-kind! She also enjoyed tending to her beautiful garden and orchids.

Tomi is survived by her sisters Shizu Matsui and Takako Watanabe; brother-in-law Takashi Watanabe; sister-in-law Terrie Isono; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. She was preceded in death by husband Masami Isono; father and mother Kensuke and Shiki Ito; brother Tomomi Ito; sisters Shizuyo Ito and Yoshiko Adachi; brothers-in-law Yoshio Isono, Noriyoshi Matsui and Hideyo Adachi; and sister-in-law Mami Ito.

A memorial service in honor of Tomi’s life will be held on Saturday, February 3, 1:00 p.m. at the Buddhist Church of Oakland located at 825 Jackson Street, Oakland, CA 94607. In keeping with the Buddhist attitude of gratitude, it is fitting that Tomi’s last word before passing was “arigato.”

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