Aiko Harada Uyeki

April 25, 1927 ~ July 6, 2023 (age 96) 96 Years Old
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Aiko Harada Uyeki passed away at home in the early morning of July 6 at the age of 96. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 71 years, Edwin, who died in October 2022. Despite her diminutive size, she was tough and resilient, surviving childhood hardships, two bouts of breast cancer, and numerous challenges throughout her life. She was a joy to the end, with a pure heart and forgiving nature. She truly embodied her name, Aiko, “child of love.”

Aiko was born in Seattle to Jingo and Shizue Harada in 1927, at the Northern Pacific Hotel where her father worked as a clerk. Her parents had immigrated from Kanazawa, Japan, on one of the last ships before the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 5 years old. They lived in Boyle Heights until they were incarcerated in 1942 in the Arizona desert, a story paralleling 120,000 other Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. After a year and a half, Aiko and her parents were able to leave the Gila River camp for Evanston, Illinois, where her father received sponsorship to work. Her brother, Roy, had already found employment in St. Louis. The boarding house where Aiko’s parents stayed did not allow children, and through a chance encounter on a bus, Aiko moved in with a family in Evanston, working as a “house girl” caring for 3 small children. She graduated from Evanston High and worked as a secretary at the University of Chicago, where she later graduated with a liberal arts degree. It was there that she met her lifelong love, Ed. They were inseparable for 72 years.

Aiko and Ed raised three children, Terry, Bill, and Amy, moving from Chicago to Cleveland, eastern Washington, and Kansas City following Ed’s career as a scientist and professor. Through the years, Aiko worked as a secretary, job-sharing several jobs with her close friend, Ann Nelson. Later, she became an ESL teacher, which combined her love of English with her empathy for second-language learners. After Ed’s retirement and 30 years in Kansas, Ed, and Aiko chose to return to the West Coast, settling in McKinleyville, California, near daughter Amy and her family. Aiko was active as a volunteer at the Mad River Community Hospital gift shop for 20 years; was a member of the McKinleyville Women’s Civic Club; and wrote short stories and remembrances with the Silver Quills writing group. The Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was a focal point for spiritual, social, and civic engagement for Aiko and Ed, longtime Unitarians.

Aiko and Ed were devoted and nurturing parents and grandparents to six grandchildren and to all their loved ones through the years, with recognition of – and tender attention paid to – each child’s interests and pursuits.

Like her mother before her, Aiko was a published writer, whose written words simply and succinctly touched and engaged her readers. In the 1980s, she wrote articles published in major newspapers about Japanese American incarceration during WW2. Her writing made its way into The Sun, a literary magazine, where stories from her life focused on larger themes, such as poverty, being uprooted, and prejudice. Over the years she spoke out against injustices inflicted upon scapegoated communities within, at, and beyond American borders. With her daughter Amy, she edited a poetry book of her mother’s Japanese senryu poems and participated in an exhibit of 4 generations of artwork of her family. A senryu she wrote to her daughter Terry expressed an apt portrayal of how many saw Aiko:

Bamboo woman, bowed

But unbroken by life’s storms,

Now she stands erect.

Aiko’s lasting legacy is the loving-kindness she shared with those around her. Her ability to live life simply, but with meaning and concern for others, acts as our moral compass. A celebration of her life and that of her beloved husband, Ed, will take place on November 11, 1 – 3 PM, at Azalea Hall, McKinleyville, CA.

The family is grateful for the loving care provided by caregivers in their latter years. In lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions in our parents’ memory may be made to a fund for scholarships for Asian American first-generation college students, the Uyeki Scholarship Fund [make check out to Humboldt Area Foundation, 363 Indianola Road, Bayside CA 95524, Uyeki Memorial in subject line, or online].

Those who will miss Ed and Aiko may envision their final departure, the way they often left an event: Ed, in front of the vehicle, impatiently saying: “C’mon, Aik, let’s go!” And imagining the look of delight on his face as she joins him, finally! 

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