Kathy Naomi Tanaka, a member of the Fukui family business who was active in community affairs, passed away peacefully in her sleep on March 1 at her home in Hacienda Heights. She was 73 years old.
Tanaka was born in Tokyo on July 30, 1949, during the American occupation of Japan, to Sochi and Ruth Fukui. As a child, she moved to America with her family and settled in Los Angeles. In July 1951 her sister Chris was born and 1½ years later her brother Jerry was born.
At age 10, Tanaka moved with her family to Windsor Hills, where she and her siblings spent the rest of their childhood. In the year She graduated from Dorsey High School in 1968 and attended UCLA, majoring in French. After graduating, she spent an extended period in Japan studying Japanese language and culture.
In the year In 1979, Tanaka continued her father’s legacy by joining him and her brother as secretary and treasurer at Fukui Mortuary. A fourth generation member of the family business, she also became a licensed funeral director and probate consultant. She continued to work in the mortuary until her death.
In 1978, she married the love of her life, Masaru Tanaka. They moved to Hacienda Heights and their family doubled when they welcomed their sons, Eric in 1980 and Ryan in 1986. She loved supporting her children in their hobbies and activities, especially basketball. Her family Eric married her daughter-in-law Tracy in 2012 and Ryan became the father of her first grandchild, Shay, in 2015. In 2018, she was blessed with two more grandsons, twins Connor and Mason.
She absolutely adored her grandchildren and loved spending time playing, reading and fooling around with them. One of her favorite accomplishments is being a grandmother.
Tanaka is dedicated to the community and has been involved with several organizations, including the Military Information Service Association of Southern California, the National Japanese American Veterans Council, the National Education Center for Broke, the Nisei Veterans Coordinating Council, and the Gratitude Crane Collection.
GFBNEC staff, directors and supporters are saddened by Tanaka’s death. “Kathy was more than just a board member,” said GFBNEC President Mitchell McKee. “She was a friend to many of us; and an inspiration to all. She showed what it means to be kind and warm, while at the same time working hard for what you believe in. We will miss her dearly.”
“We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of our longtime friend Kathy Tanaka, Thankful Crane board member and number one dishwasher at Far East Holidays and Obito Sales,” the Thanksgiving Crane Collection said in a statement.
“She was really one of the ‘back-up’ players who were MVPs for every organization they decided on. They don’t want glory or honor but do all the work. This is what Kathy was to us and to all the organizations she was involved with. We will miss her kindness, her warm and welcoming smile, and her generous spirit.
We are grateful to have known her, and thank you for all she has done for us and our community.
Filmmaker Corey Shiozaki posted a photo of Tanaka with the late photographer Archie Miyatake, both of whom indicated they were supporting the documentary “The Fishing Club of Manzanar.” “Kathy will be greatly missed for her dedication to the Broke National Education Center. We will miss her energy, her spirit and her smile,” Shiozaki said.
Tanaka’s cousin Tommy Dio wrote, “Kathy was deeply involved in the community to preserve Japanese American stories from our past and tell them to new generations. She served our community with joy, compassion and generosity. She loved her community, friends, family, especially her sons, Eric and Ryan, and her husband Masaru.
“In later years she expressed her spirituality with her loving husband in a Buddhist church, but her roots were in Christianity. I will give them eternal life, and they will not perish forever. No one can snatch them from me, he said. — John 10:28
Her kindness is reflected in everything she does.
Tanaka had a passion for the arts and enjoyed playing the piano and organ, “paint and sip” wine nights, floral design, painting, jewelry making, musicals and dancing. She loved animals, and over the years, she cared for numerous pets, including her beloved golden staff, parrots, and fish. When she wasn’t with family or participating in one of her many hobbies, she was catching up and spending time with a large group of friends.
She was excited to visit her relatives and meet her new daughter-in-law in Hiroshima this month; Unfortunately, her long-awaited trip with Masaru did not come to fruition.
She is survived by her husband, Masaru Tanaka; sons, Eric (Tracy) and Ryan (Aya) Tanaka; grandchildren, Connor and Mason Tanaka, and Shai Tanaka; brothers, Chris (Kenny) Kohler and Jerry Fukui; niece, Sarah Fukui; nephews, Cary Fukui, and Kevin and Sean Kohler; She is also survived by other relatives here and in Japan.
Visitation was held March 12 at Fukui Mortuary. A private memorial service will be held at a later date at Nishi Hongwanji.