Sumie Tanimura

Deceased: December 19, 2008

Service Information:

Memorial Visitation: Monday, December 22, 2008 5pm until 9pm


Sumie Tanimura, 87 years, died Dec. 19, 2008
Beloved wife of the late Tadashi
Loving mother of
Michael (Laurie) Tanimura,
and grand-mother of David (Stephanie) Tanimura.
Dear sister of
Kay (late Tony) Arita,
and the late
Albert (late Masuko), Steve (late Betty),
Tom (late Chiyo) and John (Ruth) Yamamoto
In lieu of flowers memorials to the J.A.S.C
4427 N Clark St. Chicago, Il. 60640 appreciated.
Memorial Visitation Dec. 22nd Monday from 5 pm until 9 pm
at Lakeview Funeral Home 1458 W Belmont Ave. Chicago, Il. 60657
for info 773-472-6300 or


A Short Biography
Mom was born in San Gabriel, California to Goichi and Kaname (nee Ikemoto) Yamamoto , both immigrants from Hiroshima, Japan. They had a flower farm in Rosemead, and were part of the Japanese collective who sold their flowers in Los Angeles. She recounted to us in recent years that after dropping off flowers at the market, sometimes she and her older brothers (as long as their dad wasn't along) would stop and get the world’s best Italian beef sandwiches. She also remembered Rose Bowl parades and going to some pre-events of the 1932 Olympics.
Mom graduated from El Monte Union High School in 1938, but for many reasons, never went to college. I know this frustrated her, because when we were bandying words about (which was our standard mode of conversation), if we reached a point of outright disagreement she would retort, “Well I'm not as smart as you, since I never went to college.”
She did get to go, along with the rest of her family, to Tulare Assembly Center and the Gila River Internment Camp during World War II. It was there that she met my father, Ted. They got out of camp fairly early in 1943, and were wed on July 3.
The next ten years in Chicago must have been a whirlwind of activity, since they lived in 21 different rentals until they bought, in 1953, the house in which the Tanimuras continue to live. She worked as a seamstress and held various light factory jobs until I came along in 1954. She remained a homemaker and full-time mom until I entered high school, and then she went back to work in a ribbon and cord factory right across from the Ravenswood El stop on Southport. She worked there until her mother, who lived with us, became unable to care for herself. Mom stayed home to take care of grandma full-time for 3-1/2 years.
After grandma passed, mom again sought employment out of the home, at the age of 65. It was just recounted to me that I told her no one would ever hire her since she was too old. Yet again, she proved me wrong by getting a job with the Chicago Shimpo. Thus began her 20-year immersion in the wider Japanese American community, and new, enduring friendships. In 1996 she left the Shimpo and became the receptionist for the JASC, a position she held until last year when they “put a computer on my desk.” In truth, mom's dementia was increasing, and she remained a valued employee until she could no longer handle the daily activities.
Besides all her friends and acquaintances from work, David was, of course, the joy of her life. She loved doing things with and for him, and all in the family believe she held on to make sure she could witness his wedding to Stephanie (which they purposefully held this year to make sure mom could attend) in August .

Some Thoughts about My Mother
“I was born in May, so I’m a Taurus, you know,” was mom’s standard reply whenever she wouldn’t agree with what I – or most anyone else – might consider a reasonable request. But while stubbornness, and its more positive cousin tenaciousness, might have been mom’s most visible traits, they were far from her most notable.
Mom had a selflessness that comes from knowing one’s place in the family and community, and, moreover, understanding the unspoken obligations and responsibilities that this entailed. For mom, it was family, friends, community and self, in that order. I don't mean to imply that mom was servile, because while she did serve willingly, it was never merely as a servant. She was the matriarch of our nuclear as well as extended Yamamoto family, even while Grandma was with us in sound mind. Her quick wit and tongue (her prickliness, as described by a coworker) were in much use in this role, since she did not have a monopoly on stubbornness (or bossiness) in our family.
As we did not have a lot of surplus money, her responsibilities to the community came in terms of her time and baking skills. Cookies by the gross, her Continental Coffee Cake, and many other treats were enjoyed by all. Once David got involved in judo, she was a staple in the hospitality rooms of all the area tournaments, and helped hostess Tohkon Judo’s Kagami Biraki celebration as long as she was able. Holiday Delight, Market Day, health fairs and other events saw her extend her role as JASC’s receptionist and greeter. She enjoyed being out in the community and neighborhood; talking to people about daily happenings, health and weather was an important part of her life.
Mom was invariably nice and kind to all those she interacted with, especially strangers. You could tell you were getting to know her better when she would turn her wit on you, and joke and jab a bit and engage in some repartee. She was truly open and caring, and withheld judgement on others until they had earned some reason to question them. My friends – whether white, black, gay or whatever – were all welcome in her home and treated with warmth. Even during this past election, she kept wanting to know why anyone would object to gays marrying or having an African American or woman as President. “People should be allowed to live their own lives,” she would say, as one who never once voiced any anger about not being able to live hers as she might have wished.
My mother lives on in our hearts and minds. The impact of her words and actions will continue to be felt through my life and David’s, and as long as we honor her legacy, it will manifest through benign leadership, goodwill and laughter.