On March 26, 2023, our family lost its matriarch. Yoko inspired us with her self-reliant spirit, discipline, and focus on the importance of education.
Yoko (Okano) Yuzuriha was born on February 7, 1931 in Wapato, Washington to Torakichi Okano and Hisayo (Taniguchi) Okano. She was the youngest of seven children. Yoko and her family were sent to the Heart Mountain (Wyoming) internment camp during World War II. She graduated as valedictorian from Nyssa High School in Nyssa, Oregon. Yoko earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Microbiology from Oregon State College in 1953 and 1954, respectively.
Yoko married Shigeru Yuzuriha on November 24, 1956 in Portland, Oregon.
Yo worked as a research scientist at Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California. After having her children, she went back to work as a teacher’s aide and earned her teaching certificate from Lewis and Clark College. She made a career as a science teacher at Fremont Junior High School in the Parkrose School District in Portland, Oregon. Yo was especially fond of teaching oceanography, taking her students annually to Yaquina Head on the Oregon coast. Her unique teaching approach was dissecting squid then frying them to eat.
Yo loved sports and staying active. As a youth, she was a feisty softball infielder. As an adult, she participated in Nisei bowling leagues in San Francisco and Portland. Cheers of “Way to go Yo!” could be heard frequently. Later in life, she took up golfing and even got a hole in one on July 1, 1994 at Broadmoor Golf Course. (“Way to go Yo!”) She worked out religiously and was still walking 2 miles a day into her 80s. Other hobbies included reading, embroidery, visits to Spirit Mountain Casino, and rooting for Oregon State, the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Seattle Mariners. For many years, Yo and Shig had season tickets to the Blazer games.
Yo was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, Shig, as well as siblings Hiro Okano, Chiyo Ogata, Keiji Okano, Nobi Funatake, Midori Komoto, and Tets Okano. She is survived by sister-in-law Nancy (Tets) Okano of San Francisco, California, son Todd (Elaine) Yuzuriha of Vancouver, Washington, daughter Lisa (Martin) Johnson of Salem, Oregon, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Yo will be laid to rest in the Japanese Ancestral Society Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
The family wishes to thank all of the healthcare providers at Bonaventure Memory Care in Keizer, Oregon and Serenity Hospice in Salem, Oregon for their compassionate and tireless care.
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