Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Betty Tanakatsubo Interview
Narrator: Betty Tanakatsubo
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-tbetty-01-0012

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TI: Okay, and so your family went "yes-yes" and then asked to go to another -- but before we do that, earlier your mentioned your father's health, that he died.

BT: Yes, he passed away.

TI: At Tule Lake?

BT: Tule Lake.

TI: So tell me about that, what happened to him?

BT: They came from I think Klamath Falls to retrieve his body.

TI: And how did he die?

BT: He died of a stroke, he had a stroke. In fact, he was rather on the tall side so in camp days they had to put these tar... well, these plaster board on the wall and on the ceiling. And he being a very tall man would get on the table and work on the ceiling for the plaster and one day he told my mother, he says, "I have a very severe headache," and so she told him, "Well, don't go to work today. Why don't you stay home?" And so he stayed home, and I happened to be home at that time and my dad got up to go to the bathroom, which was a community bathroom. So when he got up and he started to walk, he collapsed and my mother and I tried to lift him but we couldn't. And finally I had to go to the block manager and tell Min, "Call the hospital. My dad, something happened to my dad." So Min called and the ambulance came and they took him to the hospital, and no sooner, within two weeks he was gone because of the stroke. And the first place the doctor, the Japanese doctor, Nisei doctor said, "If your dad lived, he would have been partially paralyzed due to the stroke. And your mother would have to feed him," that type of situation. So in many ways, he felt that sometimes as much as you hate to admit it, he said, "Just as well he did pass on because it would have been a burden to your mother, and he himself would resent the fact that this happened to him and he would be quite broken up about it."

TI: And yet this must have been an incredible shock to you, your mother, the rest of the family because it was so sudden.

BT: Oh, yes.

TI: That he was healthy, he was working and then just like that he's gone.

BT: Right, see because now they say when you... like the beautician, when they wash your hair you have to tilt your hair back, and they said, "Don't do that," because it does something to your vein where it closes it up.

TI: Oh, like crimps it or something?

BT: Yes, when you bend backward. And then, I mean, these are things that they, years and years later they find out that no, you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't that.

TI: Your dad was doing that all day.

BT: Oh, yes, because he's up there fixing the ceiling and not the wall. So evidently it pinched his nerve which caused him to have to stroke. But in those days we didn't know enough about these medical things right so now you're more knowledgeable what took place.

TI: So with your father's death, what happened with the family, the service? Tell me about this.

BT: Well, I know they came from Klamath, I'm pretty sure it was Klamath Falls, they came after his body and they prepared for funeral and then they brought him back. They had ashes. In terms of the ash, I had no idea, I happened to be home and someone delivered this little box, package. And I didn't know what it was so I started to open it and I didn't realize it was my father's ashes that Klamath Falls went and prepared. But my mother happened to walk in when I was opening up the package and she knew right off the bat that was dad's ashes. So she kept it.

TI: And so when you realized it was your father's ashes, what was your reaction?

BT: Oh, I don't know, it seems... when it comes to something like this it seemed very impersonal 'cause it's just an ash. Somehow you can't... if it were the open casket or something I think your memory be a lot stronger, but with ashes it's not as... well I shouldn't say touching, but it doesn't quite hit you like if you had seen someone lay down in the... it's a lot different. In fact, we both said no, we're going to have picture at the funeral, no laid out. So the people always remember you when you're laid out and the memories there. Whereas with the ashes are picture you remember that person, oh, yes that's a nice picture type of thing.

TI: How was it for your mother to lose her husband?

BT: Well, I think she... I'm pretty sure she missed but she doesn't come out and say, Isseis don't talk about your personal feeling in terms of the relation of her husband. But I know she missed him, but she rarely spoke of my dad, she did it privately.

TI: And in terms of reaction of family and friends, now when someone dies, people visit them. Did that happen in camp also, did people come to your apartment and pay their respects or anything like that?

BT: Yeah, I think they still did that. I don't recall, but I'm pretty sure this is what they did in those... Isseis are really, when it comes to the tradition like that they were very, very strong.

TI: Well, another tradition during memorial services, koden, did they do koden in camp?

BT: Well, that I don't know what took place. My mother didn't speak about... I know that we always give (...) koden but I don't know too much about that.

TI: Yeah, I was just curious about what happens in camp, did these things still happen or if they suspended.

BT: (...) I can't say that it took place. It probably might have, I'm pretty sure like our close friends will probably give my mother koden but my mother never said anything.

TI: And then with the ashes, did she keep them or did she bury them?

BT: No, she kept them. She kept them and she took it when she left the camp she went back to Sacramento, she took the ashes and then was placed in the church. And one of my dad's good friend was a very good carpenter, he made the, what do they call it, butsudan where my mother could put the ashes and the candles and senkou and all that. So this good friend of my dad made one for my mother, and 'til this day my sister in Sacramento still has that.

TI: And are the ashes in there still?

BT: No, not anymore, I think they had to deposit (...) at the cemetery they bought a little plot so my dad's... at that time it was, his ashes were in the what do they call that... where it's in that little building, mausoleum, and his ashes are in that mausoleum and for so much you purchase a little area and my mother, so my dad and my mother are in the mausoleum. My sister and her husband also at that time purchased, they put money into it and purchased the mausoleum space for them.

TI: The other thing that sometimes happens at these memorial services is you find out something about like your father that you never knew because someone would tell you something in terms of what your father meant to them or something like that. Did you hear anything like that or learn anything more about your father after his death?

BT: Well, no, all I remember was this old family friend, this lady is the one that said, "Your father" -- oh, here in Chicago where we were renting an apartment, I was outside and Mrs. Okamoto was the owner of the apartment that we were renting. Her friend came by and then it so happened that this lady was from Sacramento and she knew my dad. And she told Mrs. Okamoto, "Oh, her father was an educated man." Well, I thought oh, this lady probably knows more about my dad than I do.

TI: Yeah, interesting.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.