Monthly Service : June 19, 2011

A tribute to Masae-san

Good Morning, everyone! Happy Father's Day & a special Thank You for attending this second monthly service for the month of June, 2011. I hope you are all enjoying good health and excellent spirits.

As you know, Mrs. Masae Ogawa passed away fulfilled, peacefully at age 90 on Sunday, June 5 at 10:00 pm. After her heart stopped around 8 pm on that day, Tim-san, her older son called me and I rushed quickly to see her at the hospital. When I arrived there around 9:30 pm, she could breathe and I offered prayers to Kami for Masae-san as I grasped her right hand. Soon after, she stopped breathing. I thanked Kami for her long and meaningful life. I would like today's service to be a tribute to her.

Masae-san was born July 19, 1920 in Seattle, Washington State. She was 4th oldest of the six children born to Shinkichi and Ume Nishimura. The family lived at 711 Lane Street in Seattle. Her father owned the Lane Hotel before the war. Yoshito died at a young age but Masao, Haruko, Masae, Hideko, and Shizuko all eventually grew to adulthood, married and lead long and successful lives. Her oldest sister, Haruko, and the youngest sister, Shizuko, still live in Chicago.

Masae-san attended school in Seattle and graduated from Franklin High School in 1937. She also attended Japanese language school for 12 years while growing up. When she attended our ceremonies, she often told me that she almost totally forgot the Japanese even though she had learned it for 12 years. She learned to play the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument from the late Mrs. Komatsu Hirayama whose husband Rev. Bunjiro Hirayama was the founding minister of KC Portland. She played the koto in special ceremonies at the Seattle church.

The December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was followed on February 19, 1942 by Executive Order 9066. This order declared certain areas of the U.S. as military zones and allowed the U.S. government to remove 120,000 ethnic Japanese living on the West Coast to be deported to remote, inland internment camps. As part of Seattle's Japanese community, Masae and her family were interned in Puyallup Assembly Center in Puyallup, Washington in April of 1942. In the process the Nishimuras lost all their belongings forever.

Four months later Masae-san and her family were transferred sometime in late August or September 1942 from the Puyallup Assembly Center along with the 7,000 other Seattle internees to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Hunt, Idaho. The Nishimuras lived in Barrack 8E of Block 28 in the Minidoka Relocation Center.

In 1944, Masae and her sister Hideko, who was 4 years younger, moved to Chicago, Illinois and rented a basement apartment at 3752 N. Sheffield Ave.

In December of 1944, the Supreme Court ruled that the War Relocation Authority (WRA) had no right to intern American citizens. By the end of 1945 all Relocation Centers had been closed.

In 1945, Shizuko, Haruko, and mother Ume left Minidoka Relocation Center and came to Chicago to live with Masae and Hideko. Their father, Shinkichi had passed away in the Relocation Center in 1945. Masao was living in an apartment on the north side of Chicago and moved back in with the rest of the family. Masae found a job at A.C. McClurg & Co. at 333 E. Ontario St. in Chicago. A.C. McClurg & Co. was one of the country's largest book distributors. In 1946, mother Ume again purchased a building at 2252 N. Cleveland Ave.

Masae Nishimura and Terry Ogawa were married on April 9, 1950 and moved to 914 W. Belle Plaine in Chicago. Eventually Ume sold the building and she and Shizuko moved to 914 W. Belle Plaine and lived in a separate apartment from Terry and Masae. Haruko and Masao were married and had moved to another part of Chicago.

Terry Ogawa was born in a small town of about 1,500 in Sumner, Washington. He was also interned in the Puyallup Assembly Center and the Minidoka Relocation Center. The Ogawa family lived in Barrack 3E and F of Block 1 in the Minidoka Relocation Center.

Terry volunteered to fight and was in the 232nd Engineer Combat Company, an integral part of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, an all-Japanese American unit. Terry trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in February 1943 and was sent overseas in May 1944 and had their first line combat in June 1944 as part of the Italian campaign. In September 1944, the 232nd Engineer Combat Team was sent to the French Campaign.

The war in Europe ended May 8, 1945 with the German unconditional surrender and would be the last action of the 442nd in World War II. The war in Asia ended on August 15, 1945 when Japan agreed to surrender.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service, in the entire history of the U.S. Military. The stellar record of the Japanese Americans serving in the 442nd and in the Military Intelligence Service (U.S. Pacific Theater forces in World War II) helped change the minds of anti-Japanese American critics in the U.S. and resulted in easing of restrictions and the eventual release of the 120,000 strong community well before the end of World War II.

Timothy was born to Terry and Masae in 1952. By June 1954, Hideko and Shizuko were also married. In June 1954, all three couples purchased a three story apartment building at 4241 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago. David was born to Terry and Masae in June 1954 and would be the last child of Terry and Masae. Hideko and Shizuko bore children during this time and the families continued to live and the children grew up at this address for 31 years until the building was sold in 1985 whereupon the families moved to other parts of the city. Ume-san, her mother, passed away on Feb. 17, 1970.

A.C. McClurg & Co. closed and Masae-san worked downtown at Montgomery Wards and then at Enesco Imports for many years till she retired in 1982 at age 62. Masae came out of retirement and worked for a short time at Marshall Fields on State Street in downtown Chicago.

Timothy and David were already married by 1985 so Terry and Masae rented an apartment in the Foster and Kimball area. In 1987, Masae and Terry moved to Long Avenue in the Jefferson Park area. Terry died in 1996. Masae liked to read, knit and crochet, and do crossword puzzles. Family was important to Masae-san.

Masae-san continued to live on her own and was a widow for 15 years till her death at age 90 on June 5, 2011. Masae-san and her family suffered hardships early in life and she battled through health problems in her later years, but she lived a full and rich life and touched the lives of many people.

Since the 1960's, several Konko ministers came from Japan to study at the Meadville Lombard Theological School, which is affiliated with the University of Chicago. Masae-san, Shizuko-san, Hideko-san and their families took it upon themselves to take good care of all those minsters and make them feel at home in Chicago. That was one of the reasons KCNA gave top priority to Chicago in selecting a place to esatablish a church in middle America. Then I was assigned to do missionary work in Chicago and moved here with my family in 1997.

As I mentioned in her brief biography, she received the greatest blessings of life here on earth through faith. One proof is that she has raised such wonderful generations to follow her. I have always admired her family as I've had the privilege and opportunity of meeting each of them. Our founder taught us, "The foundation of faith should be harmony in one's family," Masae-san and her family have achieved this teaching by her example; lived throughout her lifetime.

We also appreciate her sincerity to Kami. The Konko Church of Chicago would not exist as it is without her devotion to Kami. Her contribution as well as her inspiration has been tremendous. Masae-san has been a most meritorious person for our church.

I met her family through Kami's great arrangement beginning with her grandson, Kevin. He entered the Northside College Preparatory High School one year after my older son Mitsunori became a student at the same high school. Through them I met her older son, Tim-san and his family at the school orientation. Since then Masae-san and Tim-san's family have faithfully attended Grand Ceremonies and Memorial Services, our important events. How wonderfully sincere she has been. Because of her the Konko Church of Chicago was established in April 2009. That is why she should be called by the divine name, Ogawa Masae Magokoro Isaone Ouna no Mitama no Kami. Magokoro means sincerity. Isaone means that her great contribution to Kami is the root that nourishes this center of faith in our city. Ouna means an old lady.

I believe Masae-san was chosen to be the guiding spirit of this church by Kami and not by coincidence. She was married April 9, 1950. Fifty-nine years later to the day I was named head-minister of the Konko Church of Chicago on April 9, 2009, by our Principal Mediator in Japan. Her wedding Anniversary and the Chicago Church's anniversary are the same! What a wonderful arrangement of Kami this is!

My wife, Kanako and I miss Masae-san; surely not as deeply as her wonderful family, but our family misses her just as sincerely & profoundly. We miss her gentle smile. I miss the soft sound of her voice when she called me "Sensei." She introduced me to her doctors and nurses as "my minister," when I visited her at the hospital. How deeply grateful I was for the honor of that title and how responsible I feel to uphold the privilege.

Kanako has had her wishes to play the koto for Masae-san's funeral service since she knew that Masae-san had studied and sometimes performed on the koto for the important ceremonies at the Konko Church of Seattle when she was younger. Kanako played the Koto to pay a tribute and honor her at the funeral service. It was a most appreciated by the mourners.

June 6th, the morning after Masae-san passed away, I prayed for her during our regular Morning Prayer. Then I opened the Wagakokoro Sacred Book to receive a revelation about her from Kami. I received Kami's answer for Masae-san by turning directly to the following poem; which was a teaching written by my parent minister Rev. Soichiro Otsubo.

In English it says:

Those who overcome obstacles with peace at heart
Beckon prosperity and respect.
Never lose the Wagakokoro heart.

From now on I will keep this message in mind and devote myself to deepening peace and joy in my heart.

The funeral service for the late Mrs. Masae Ogawa was held on Sunday, June 12 and the cremation service the next day. The weather was perfect on those two days. Everything was arranged smoothly. Rev. Tsuyuki came from KC Los Angeles and was a head officiant. I assisted him to lead the prayers during the service. Rev. Tsuyuki performed the funeral services 6 times during the last two months. He is an expert in the field of Konkokyo rituals in the USA. Masae-san's older son Tim-san gave his eulogy. He talked about her mother's impressive biography and read his moving poem about her. Masae-san's grandchildren, Kimberly & Kevin gave their words of appreciation and all mourners were moved to tears to listen to it. Her funeral service was conducted so beautifully and solemnly that all mourners were deeply impressed.

Let us pray for her eternal peace and happiness. May she live in the spiritual presence of Kami's delight with Konko Daijin as her eternal Mediator in the next world.

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