Photography

Tom Shigeo Osaka

January 31, 1921 ~ April 19, 2022 (age 101)

Obituary

     Tom Shigeo Osaka passed away on April 19 at 101 years old.   Born on January 31, 1921, in Tacoma, WA, Shigeo was the eldest son of Hidekichi and Mitsuru Osaka. When he started school, his first grade teacher at Fife Elementary couldn’t pronounce Shigeo, so he became Tom.

      Before the war Tom and his brothers worked on the family truck farm in Fife while attending Fife High School.  An excellent student, he played on both its basketball and baseball teams.  Graduating in 1938, a family friend offered to pay for his college education, but Tom chose to go to work.  During this time he played baseball in a local Japanese League.

     Executive Order 9066 moved the Osakas to the Puyallup Fairgrounds, then to the Minidoka, ID, internment camp.  Tom obtained permits to work beyond the Exclusion Zone during the harvest season.  When working in Ontario, OR, he met his future wife, Michiko Umemoto.  When the Osaka family was released, they moved back to Fife.  Tom then started his yard maintenance business, which grew in size and scope, and in 1985 he and his younger son Kurt launched Osaka Garden, Inc.  Tom officially “retired” in his 60’s, but he continued to work through his 70’s, and to “do payroll” into his late 80’s.
     In the early 1950s, Tom had earned enough to make a large down payment on a house, but his bank told him he needed a Caucasian co-signer. A local businessman stepped up.  Tom hated debt, and he paid off the mortgage within 3 years.  When the Port of Tacoma bought the property in 2007, Tom moved to Milton, WA, where he lived the remainder of his life.

     Tom would pack ume nigiri for seasickness and then head out of Westport or Sekiu with his friends to fish for salmon. They combed the shores of Puget Sound for octopus and bottom fish. He dug for razor clams in the surf at Ocean Shores, and he hunted for matsutake in his secret places. Tom bowled for years, then discovered golf, hitting the links well into his 80’s.  His partners spanned generations.  A season ticket holder, Tom followed the Huskies to big bowl games across the country.  He attended Fife High Trojans football and basketball games long after his children had graduated.  He was a regular tournament ticket holder at the state basketball championship games in Tacoma.
      Tom made friends wherever he was, and he always remembered them.  His memory for places and people was prodigious, and his sense of humor intact to the very end.

     Tom is survived by his children Janice Osaka (Gardiner Vinnedge), Gordon Osaka, Kurt Osaka (Jodie Marr), grandchildren Margie Vinnedge (Brandon Willhight), Chris Osaka, Anna Champlin (Joe), Kai Osaka, great granddaughter, Charlotte Champlin, and many nieces and nephews.  Tom was predeceased by his parents, brothers (Dick Tadashi, Frank Masao, and Roy Tsuyoshi), and his wife of nearly 60 years, Michiko.

     The family would like to thank Priscilla Dagan and East Pierce Fire and Rescue for helping Tom stay in his home for so long, and Garden Terrace and St. Francis Hospice for their care and counsel at the very end.  A small, family funeral was held at Gaffney’s in Tacoma.  Remembrances may be made to the Tacoma Buddhist Temple.

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