Sumi Nakashima

June 9, 1930 – Jan. 9, 2024

NAKASHIMA, SUMIKO (SUMI) KANAYA passed away peacefully at age 93 on January 9, 2024 in Moraga, CA. Born in Woodinville, WA on June 9, 1930, Sumi was the fifth of six children. Before World War II, the Kanaya family farmed land, primarily growing strawberries. During the war, the family was forcibly removed to Pinedale Assembly Center and later incarcerated at Tule Lake Segregation Center.

After the war, the family settled in Ontario, OR, and Sumi later moved to San Francisco to attend SF City College, subsequently completing her BA degree and teaching credential at San Francisco State. In 1953 Sumi married Jack Hajime Nakashima and in 1959 they settled in an Eichler home in Walnut Creek.

Sumi was a dedicated and beloved public educator, teaching elementary school in San Francisco, Richmond, West Pittsburg and Concord; she retired from teaching in 1991. Sumi was also active in the Diablo Valley Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and co-chaired the scholarship committee.

Sumi and Jack enjoyed entertaining and leave a legacy of bringing people together by opening their home over the years, graciously hosting gatherings filled with food, music, and flowers for family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Sumi was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Jack, and siblings Hideo, Kiyoko, Masako, Toshio, and Kimio. She is survived by sons Steve and Dave, daughter-in-law Debbie Fong, granddaughters Gabriela and Camila, and thirteen nieces and nephews.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, March 10th at 12:30 p.m. in the Lakeside Room at Heather Farm Community Center, 301 North San Carlos Drive, Walnut Creek. Floral attire is strongly encouraged and a reception will immediately follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Tule Lake Committee ( or the National Japanese American Historical Society (

3 responses to “Sumi Nakashima”

  1. Sheila Grace Cano Avatar
    Sheila Grace Cano

    Thank you for a lovely word portrait of Sumi. Many of the details filled in my understanding of her life and legacy. I so wish I could be there with you all to celebrate her life, and the love which she graced us. Her joyous laughter rings in my heart, and that is my fondest memory. May peace be with you, my dear friends.

  2. Ena Harris Avatar
    Ena Harris

    Sumi was a dear friend. Sumi taught me so much without making me feel stupid for not knowing. She was the most gracious host I have ever known and generously shared her recipes. She also shared her love for others, for me and for mine. Love lives forever.

  3. Marc Boman Avatar
    Marc Boman

    Sumi was the best of neighbors to my late parents and me — since the times when as a teenager I babysat her sons. Her bright smile and engaging demeanor brightened every day that our paths crossed. I will miss her.

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