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Judith Michie Sakurai Yamauchi ’60

July 12, 2022, in Portland, Oregon.

Judy was born in Portland, the last of six children of Chiyoko and Masaru Sakurai. Since her mother was induced one month early so that the doctor could go on vacation, Judy was quite small (5 lb.) and slept most of her first year. When she was three years old, she and her family were sent to the Portland Assembly Center (Pacific International Livestock Exposition Pavilion) until the permanent concentration camps could be set up in south central Idaho. She spent ages four to six at the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho.

After World War II was over, Judy and her family moved back to the family farm in Troutdale, Oregon; but, due to prejudicial words and comments indicating that they weren’t welcome there, they decided to leave and sold the land. Judy’s father started work as a landscape gardener and moved into the only place that would accept many Japanese American families in Portland—the Federal Public Housing Administration’s Vanport (the country’s largest public housing project). During the 1948 Vanport flood, the entire housing project was destroyed in less than a day, and more than 18,000 residents were displaced. After her family was flooded out of Vanport, they lived for a while in Fairview, and then in downtown Portland; she attended Lincoln High School.

Following the example of her two brothers, Richard Sakurai ’53 and Edward Sakurai ’58, Judy came to Reed, where she majored in organic chemistry and wrote her thesis, “The Synthesis of Hippurylglycine using N, N, N¹-Triphenylformanidyl Chloride,” advised by Prof. Marshall Cronyn [chemistry 1952–89]. She went to graduate school at the University of Oregon and was recruited by Shell Development Corporation in Emeryville, California, to work as a chemist in the patent section doing international literature searches because of her language abilities in German and French. Shortly thereafter, she was sent by Shell to go back to graduate school at Stanford University to learn the Japanese language.

Hiroshi Yamauchi (originally from Maui, Hawaii) was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, working for the competing Ortho Chemical Company, when he met and married Judy. After earning his PhD at UC Berkeley, he accepted a position at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the couple moved to Hawaii. Hiroshi remained a professor of natural resource conservation economics at UH until his retirement 30 years later.

Hiroshi and Judy had one child, a daughter, Kara Mie, who was born in Honolulu. For a time, Judy was a stay-at-home mom. After her daughter was in school, Judy went to work as the director of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii until the family went to Japan for Hiroshi’s two Fulbright Fellowships, at Kyoto University and at Tokyo University. While in Japan, she worked for Suntory in Akasaka-Mitsuke, Tokyo. After returning to Honolulu, Judy worked for many years at the Japanese consulate as a speechwriter for the consul general. Eventually she and Hiroshi left Hawaii to relocate back to Portland to help their daughter care for their granddaughter, Nicole.

Judy had a lifelong interest in the fine arts, particularly in drawing and lithography, and studied at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Bishop Museum, and the University of Hawaii. She painted commissioned portraits while she was in Honolulu, and studied calligraphy for 15 years in Portland under Fujii sensei. She worked to paint and illustrate more than 500 haiku poems written by her late mother that had been published throughout the course of 50 years in the Japanese literary magazine Hototogisu.

To keep herself busy during the pandemic, Judy took it upon herself to make and deliver Japanese bentos every Friday to more than 15 shut-ins in five different retirement homes. She enjoyed doing volunteer work and throughout her retirement years was involved in many volunteer projects.

She is survived by her daughter, Kara Mie Williams, and granddaughter, Nicole McGraw.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2023

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