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Atsumi "Joe" Yamakido

March 3, 1922 February 21, 2014
Atsumi "Joe" Yamakido
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Obituary for Atsumi "Joe" Yamakido

Atsumi “Joe” Yamakido, passed away on February 21, 2014 in Hiouchi, CA, surrounded by his family. He was 91. On March 3, 1922 in Los Angeles, California, he was the second of six children born to Japanese immigrants. Joe was raised in Harbor City, CA on his family's farm. Though an American citizen, the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan changed his world in an unexpected way. In February 1942, Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt forced people of Japanese heritage on the Pacific Coast into concentration camps, including over 60,000 American citizens. Joe and his family were moved into a concentration camp in Santa Anita, CA where they lived in horse stalls. Joe was split from his family and was transferred to Tule Lake, CA and later Jerome, Arkansas. At Jerome, he refused to be drafted into the Army unless he was given the same Constitutional rights as other Americans. He was the "Lone Resister" at Jerome. For his stand, he served two years in federal prison. Upon release, he served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 1947. In 1950, Joe married the late Aki Yamakido. The couple eventually settled in La Puente, CA, having six children along the way. They divorced in 1965, but Joe always made sure to be there every Friday to pick up his kids for quality time. In 1984, he retired after more than twenty years as a warehouse foreman. In 1990, he moved with his daughter's family to Crescent City. Joe was Mr. Fix-it. If something was broken, he fixed it. If something needed building, he built it. His vegetable gardens were his pride and joy, second only to his full head of hair. He had a great sense of humor and an insatiable love for cookies and chocolate. If you tried to take his sweets it was at risk of your own life and limb. He could often be seen walking in Crescent City wearing his trademark headphones. For a man who went through so much, he was tender and loved his kids and grand-kids dearly. He endured the funny hats and glasses they put on him. He entertained his family by falling down trying to break the pinata at his grand-kids' birthday parties. As the younger Japanese-American generation began to realize their parents' stories, a movement began to educate the next generation about this chapter in American history. Joe began to tell his story. He made pilgrimages to many of the sites of the concentration camps to pay tribute and to educate the younger American generation. In a 2004 interview, he said, “I hope the younger generation learns from my experience. And I hope they have enough guts to speak up and face the consequences.” In his last days, he died just like he lived – a fighter. He left his family an amazing legacy to follow. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Akeji (father) and Katsuno (mother); his three brothers, Haruo, Masaharu and Tadao; his ex-wife Aki; and his beloved daughter, Coleen. He is survived by his sisters Chidori and Akiko; sons Steve, Wayne (Linda) and Tyler and daughters Aileen (Ernie Sanchez) and Laureen; 9 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, 1 great-great-grandson and 8 nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held later at Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier, CA. Condolences can be expressed at redwoodmemorial.net. The family suggests that any memorial donations be made in Joe's honor to the Densho Japanese-American Legacy Project (densho.org) or the Japanese-American National Museum (janm.org).

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