Cover photo for Fumi Onchi's Obituary
1923 Fumi 2016

Fumi Onchi

October 26, 1923 — August 6, 2016

Fumi Onchi, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and friend, passed peacefully Saturday, Aug. 6th, 2016 at the age of 92. Fumi was born Aug. 26th, 1923 to Seikichi Yumibe and Isa (Hayashi) Yumibe. Fumi was the eldest of sisters Teri and Kiyo while growing up in Portland. The sisters helped out in the family laundry business. In their free time they loved going to movies. During WWII Fumi and her family was interned at Tule Lake, California, and later, Camp Jerome, Arkansas. It was at Camp Jerome where she met Jimmie Onchi who was on a 3 day pass from the army to visit his family. They married on March 26, 1944 with Kaz Fujii as the best man and spent 69 years together. Besides being a loving mother to her five boys, Fumi was an avid chrysanthemum grower and judge as well as a student of Ikebana. She also enjoyed  bowling, golf and table tennis, and was a devoted member of the Epworth United Methodist Church and involved with the Obukan Judo Club. Fumi is preceded in death by her husband, Jim; and son Curtis; sisters Teri (Yumibe) Iwasaki, and Kiyo Yumibe. She is survived by her children, Gary (Diane) Onchi, Dwight (Tracy) Onchi, Harvey (Chris) Onchi, and Kelvin (Grace) Onchi; Brothers-in-law Joe (Toby) Onchi, Art Iwasaki; Grandchildren Jennifer (Jeff) MacClanathan, Jay (Jamie) Onchi, Tad (Maria) Onchi, Curtis Onchi, Jossilyn Onchi, Kyle Onchi; eight Great Grandchildren; many nieces and nephews. A very special thanks to the staff at Greenhills Adult Foster Care Home who were always there for Fumi. Remembrances can be made to Epworth United Methodist Church, Ikoi no Kai lunch program or to the charity of your choice. A private graveside service will be held for immediate family only.

March 26, 1998   The Life of James & Fumi Onchi as told by Fumi.

We are blessed after reflecting 54 years of marriage. Our four surviving sons are all married with wonderful wives and families, we both feel very proud of our families.

A long time ago in 1944 dad and I were married in a camp far away in Jerome, Arkansas. Dad was 26 and I was 20. You cannot imagine the hardships and humiliations our families went through leaving all our possessions and into a life full of uncertainties. I had lost my father in 1941 just before Pearl Harbor, our country was at war, and I just graduated from Lincoln High. With only what we could carry, we started living as prisoners, first at Portland Assembly Center which was the former Stockyards in North Portland. We stayed there from April to September. We lived there in small compartments, no ceiling and an open door where we hung sheets for privacy. They put boards over the stalls where they housed the cattle and sheep, and that summer was especially hot, the smell of manure would fill the air, and flies were everywhere. In the mess hall there were paper fly catchers strung from the ceilings.

We moved on to Tule Lake in September to be close to our uncle and his family who had traveled from Hood River. Most of our Portland friends went on to Hunt, Idaho. We made many new friends in Tule Lake and lived there for a year. Tule Lake at that time had a population of about 15,000. I worked on the Tulean Dispatch a daily newspaper as a reporter. The government gave us a monthly wage of 9 or 12 dollars. The meals were all eaten at the mess hall, the barracks we called home gave us more privacy, one room for each family. They had dances where you could meet new friends some times we danced to live band. The people from California were more upbeat knew all the latest dance steps etc. For a time there was much controversy you had to choose to be loyal to our country or did not agree and declared they would not fight for our country.

We left Jerome, Arkansas and it took us 5 days on the train to get there. The Onchis traveled with us to Arkansas. Raymond was born in Tule Lake. Dad was in the 442 Combat Unit stationed in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and Uncle Joe was stationed at Camp Robinson, Arkansas near Little Rock. From there Uncle Joe transferred to Camp Shelby and went on with the 442 to Italy where he later got shot in the leg.

So there dad and I met when he came up on a three day pass. So we married in camp Jerome with Kaz Fujii as his best man. We were married on dad’s birthday March 26 when he turned 26. He could only get a 3 day pass, so right after the wedding we had to head for Mississippi. We were lucky to find a place to stay in Hattiesburg, for everyone was looking for housing and the town was very small. We stayed 2 miles out in Petal where the owner of the house rented out the 2 bedrooms and they slept in the living room. We all got to share the kitchen. Rumors were always flying around that the unit will be shipped out to Europe, and finally that day did come, but dad lucked out and he was chosen to stay back and train the new recruits. We lived there for a year, then it was time to be shipped out again. I was pregnant when I went to Minneapolis to look for a place where Grandma Yumibe, Aunty Kiyo, and Aunty Teri could all live together. We did find an apartment and lived there through the winter. Curtis was born in St. Paul in the army hospital, and dad came back from Germany in the spring of ’46. We all decided to go back to Portland where the winters were not so fierce.

Back in Portland we lived at Vanport, a government housing project built to house the shipyard workers. Dad found work at the shipyards at first, then later worked for Herlen Homes.

Then the fateful day came when the dyke by the railroad bridge collapsed and flooded Vanport. We didn’t feel safe since it was supposed to crest on Monday. It was a beautiful Sunday warm and sunny when I heard the sirens. Dad was in Gresham to borrow Uncle George’s truck so we could move that day. I was able to call him on the phone and told him the sirens were going, and he told me to stay right there, he’ll be coming right away. Our neighbor Chuck Shimomura told us to leave with them, so with Curtis and 1 suitcase we got in their car and went straight out. No one saw us so when dad got to Vanport he was really worried. We went straight to Mishiro’s Café where everyone was gathering for news of their families. Eventually we met there and had to find a place to stay. Gary was born two days after the flood, and Curtis contracted the hard measles while I was still at the hospital.

Finding housing was hard. We went here and there, finally stayed at Fairview Housing and spent the winter there. They had a record snowfall that winter. No central heating there, no hot water unless you heated a wood stove and coal to warm the rooms. We finally moved to Columbia Villa another government housing unit and lived there till we were able to build our own house on Seward Street. Dad worked evenings and weekends on the house, and Dwight was born just when we started to build the house.

When building slowed up Herlen Homes went bankrupt, so dad was forced to go on his own. So you see, life was not a bed of roses for us, always up and down, but we somehow managed to come through. So that is why we feel so very blessed and thankful for all the blessings we receive. We will always miss Curtis and remember him with love. God bless each and every one of you and may you all have a life of happiness and love.

Dad and Mom

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