Obituary: Kiyoko 'Kay' Horita (1933-2012)

She lived a remarkable life that included three years in a Japanese internment camp also included love, survival and family.

Kiyoko "Kay" Horita of Rosemead, CA passed away on Nov. 30, 2012 in Colorado Springs, CO at the age of 79.

A former Mountain View resident, Kay was the first daughter of Japanese-born Junso Kawamoto who came to America by way of Peru, South America. Kay's mother, Tsue Nishikawa, was born in Hilo, Hawaii and her family moved to Japan where she finished her education. Junso made his way to United States in May of 1921 and lived in Southern California where he worked in the produce business. Junso and Tsue were introduced by family friends while Tsue was still in Japan, and were only able to talk to each other by sending letters and pictures. On Feb 10, 1931, they were married in El Monte, California Junso and Tsue started their family at the end of 1931 with birth of their first son Mamoru in 1931.

Kay was born on March 6, 1933 in Rosemead, CA. Her dad considered her his birthday present since his birthday was on March 5. In 1934, tragedy struck when her brother Mamoru got Scarlet fever and passed away. The family's second daughter, Aiko, was born in 1935, and the family decided to move to Long Beach with the goal of becoming farmers. The following years in Long Beach brought three more children: Shizuko, born in 1937; Takeru, born in 1939; and Sumiko, born in 1941.

On Dec 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and things looked gloomy. In May 1942 when Kay was nine years old, her family collected their clothing, a few personal items and were forced to head to the Tulare Race Track where they lived for next 3 months. In August 1942, the Kawamoto family relocated to the Gila, Arizona internment camp for three years. In 1944 while in camp another son, Masaru, was born in 1944.

August 1945 when Kay was 12 years old, the Kawamoto family was released from camp and moved to Compton. They farmed in areas like Perris and Norwalk. Kay, her brothers and sisters kept busy farming and going to school. In 1950, Junso and Tsue's last son, Frank, was born and the family moved from Compton to Cupertino for strawberry sharecropping and to be closer to Tsue's family. Kay made many new friends at school, the Young Buddhists Association and other social clubs. Kay graduated from Campbell High School in 1951.

Then, in 1953, tragedy struck again when Kay's father got tuberculosis from somebody at the strawberry ranch. It took a couple of years to recover in the hospital. He was released from the hospital and went home to recover, but unfortunately had a stroke at the age of 57 and passed away on Dec 31, 1955. This was a very dark day for the family, and shortly thereafter, Kay's mom moved her family to Sunnyvale to be closer to her sister.

At 22, Kay met her future husband Ben Horita. Kay and Ben married three years later on June 14, 1958. They had a very nice wedding at Wesley Methodist church in San Jose. They moved to Mountain View when they welcomed the arrival of their first daughter Gayle on May 18, 1959. However, tragedy struck the Kawamoto family again in October 1960 when her brother Takeru was killed in an auto accident.

Kay and Ben welcomed their second daughter Lori on May 21, 1961 and they now lived at 1075 Grape Ave. in Sunnyvale. Kay's mom passed away in December of that same year at age 55 due to cancer. The two youngest children, Frank and Masuru couldn't live on their own so they moved in with Kay and Ben. They raised both boys until they graduated from high school.

In 1962, their last daughter, Carole, was born Oct 11. Kay, being the oldest daughter of the Kawamoto family, ensured everyone got together for birthday parties, Christmas, and to just spend time with each other whether it was in Lake Tahoe or for a day at the beach. She also thought it was very important for her family to follow the Buddhist tradition of Shotsuki Hoyo to celebrate the passing of her previous family members.

To help her family, Kay decided to go to De Anza Community College where she received her medical assistance degree in 1973. Soon after, she got a job at Stanford Hospital as a patient account representative.

Ben and Kay enjoyed fishing so they took their daughters all over the west coast to fish, camp and also visit places like Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, B.C. Canada and to visit family in Washington.

Ben's job working at NASA Ames aboard a plane to operate a telescope that could look at space allowed him to travel all around the world. This meant Kay could travel with him and she got to see places like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hawaii several times. After Ben retired in 1987, they travelled all around the United States, Asia and Europe. Kay retired from Stanford Hospital after 23 years at the age of 64.

In the meantime, daughter Gayle married Jim Cunningham in 1985 and just recently celebrated their 27th anniversary. They have a daughter, Katie, who is 24 and just graduated from San Francisco State University, and son, Patrick, 19, just graduated from high school. Kay attended Patrick's graduation in May 2012. She loved to visit her grandkids.

Lori married John Stelting in 1995 and moved to Colorado Springs. Kay and Ben enjoyed spending time with John, Lori, and their dogs Bently and Porsche. Kay enjoyed petting the dogs and taking them for walks. The Horita family had a dog named Benjy and the girls later learned she would draw pictures of him at her North End Adult Day Care. Carole met Hugh Smith while they worked in an accounting department in California. They moved to Colorado Springs and have been together since 1995.

Kay had several medical issues. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 65 and was cancer free since then. Then the family noticed that she didn't remember significant events, like when the whole family went on a cruise to the Bahamas in 2008. At age 75, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. With the health issues too difficult for Ben to handle alone and Gayle living 2 hours away, in August 2011 Kay and Ben moved in with Carole and Hugh.

Kay adjusted to the cold weather and dry summers in Colorado. She loved attending North End Adult Day Care four times per week. She would exercise, play Bingo, socialize, and she loved doing arts and crafts there. The family hopes some of her art will be a part of the Memories in the Making program where they will sell her paintings to make money for the Alzheimer's Association.

Family and friends are invited to attend the funeral service on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple: 575 N. Shoreline Blvd. In lieu of flowers or koden, please donate to the Alzheimer's association (www.alz.org) or the breast cancer charity of your choice in memory of Kay Horita. For more information please email: kayhorita@yahoo.com.

This obituary has been provided courtesy of the Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary.


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