JACLer, Activist Iiyama, 98, Dies

By September 3, 2020September 15th, 2020No Comments

Chizu Iiyama, a lifelong civil rights and Japanese American community activist, has died. She was 98.


In an email to Pacific Citizen, her daughter, Patti Iiyama, confirmed her mother’s passing on Aug. 26 at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center in Richmond, Calif. According to the email, Chizu Iiyama “went peacefully and without pain. My sister Laura, my husband Jerry Freiwith and I were with her throughout the day and evening.”

Chizu Iiyama’s résumé of community involvement included such groups as JACL, NCRR and the National Japanese American Historical Society.

A San Franciscan and University of California Berkeley graduate, Chizu Kitano was incarcerated during WWII at the Topaz WRA Center in Utah, where she met her future husband, Ernest Iiyama. According to the Densho online encyclopedia, the couple married and moved to Chicago in 1943 and later, New York, before returning to Chicago. In 1955, they moved to Northern California.

“She was outspoken and steadfast, along with my father Ernie, in the fight for Redress, for civil rights, and against the war in Vietnam,” noted the email from Patti Iiyama.