November 18, 1941 – July 14, 2020
Seiko was born in California in November 1941. She was interned along with her family and other Japanese-Americans. After the war, her family moved to a farm in a small California town. In Grade one, her teacher informed her that “Seiko” was not an American name, and from then on she would be called “Helen”. The teacher refused to call her “Seiko” and Seiko refused to respond to “Helen”. Seiko eventually won the battle of wills.
That fearless tenacity was present throughout her life.
Her family of origin and the culture of the 1950s and early 1960s had definite role expectations about the behaviour of young women, particularly of Japanese-American women. Seiko was having none of it. She had strong beliefs about how she would be in the world, what she would learn and what she would explore.
In 1959 she moved to San Francisco, went to University, discovered the nascent New Age spiritual movements of the time (briefly), learned and moved on. Also explored the more countercultural movements of the time. Again participated briefly, saw, learned and moved on.
In 1965, she moved to New York, a time of great possibilities for learning about social work, mental health, community development, and advocacy for marginalized people. The time in New York was a Eureka time for Seiko, exposed to so many new ideas which she deeply “grokked”.
After several years in New York, the possibility of social change seemed to narrow. She saw more potential in Canada and rode her motorcycle to Victoria. In Canada, she continued her warm, insightful, brave social work career. Near Victoria, she met John. First meeting was a ping-pong game, second meeting was working together at night finding homeless street kids and persuading them to come to a shelter, third meeting was to make a life-time mutual commitment.
The second half of her life she dedicated to her family. She had joy and delight in having three wonderful children. She was totally devoted to family, to supporting, to teaching, to showing, to planning, and to caring with wisdom and compassion. Later, she had the pleasure of meeting the partners of her daughters.
She made the family that she wanted, and she had more than 8 years with grandchildren, a time she treasured. She leaves us strong with special memories and infinite gratitude.
She is survived by her husband, John; daughters, Tomiko (Michael), Kiyoko (Brian), and son, Jacob; and grandchildren, Lillian, Rose, and Hugo; as well as relatives in California.
A celebration of her life will take place at a later date. An announcement will be made. In the meantime, to honor Seiko, share a meal with loved ones.
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