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Steadfast JACLer Homer Yasui Dies at 98

By August 25, 2023September 8th, 2023No Comments

Last sibling of the famous Yasui Nisei siblings of Hood River, Ore.

By P.C. Staff

Homer Yasui, the last surviving sibling of the nine children of the storied Hood River, Ore., Yasui clan born to Issei immigrants Shidzuyo and Masuo Yasui, died on July 25. He was 98. According to family sources, he had survived “three different types of cancer” and died of lung cancer.

Homer Yasui (Photo: Courtesy of the Yasui Family)

In a statement issued after his passing, said, “In addition to sharing his life story through oral history interviews with Densho and countless other public appearances, he helped found the Oregon Nikkei Endowment (now the Japanese American Museum of Oregon), wrote a series of autobiographical vignettes for his extended family and tended to an expansive archive related to his family’s incarceration experience, including his brother Minoru Yasui’s widely known legal battle.”

Reflecting on Yasui’s life and JACL résumé, Chip Larouche, former Pacific Northwest District governor, described Yasui as “an exceptional fellow” who had served as president of the Portland JACL chapter in 1973 and from 1980-81, followed by a stint as the PNW district governor during the run-up to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

In his email to the Pacific Citizen about Yasui, Larouche added: “His kindness and helpfulness were ‘world class,’ whether he was helping the new Japanese American Museum in Oregon get on its feet or whether he was showing you how to properly harvest matsutake mushrooms from his ‘secret’ location in the mountains.”

Setsy and Chip Larouche enjoy lunch with Homer Yasui in June 2023. (Photo: Courtesy of Setsy and Chip Larouche)

A 1949 graduate of Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Medical College, Yasui would practice surgery for 29 years, retiring in 1987. Prior to that, during WWII he had been imprisoned at the Pinedale Assembly Center near Fresno, Calif., then transferred with his family at the Tule Lake WRA Center, also in California. By September 1942, he was able to leave the concentration camp to attend the University of Denver, and in 1945, he enrolled at Hahnemann.

Yasui and Miyuki “Miki” Yabe, of Pasadena, Calif., were married in 1950 in New York after he completed a medical internship in Milwaukee, Wis. He finished his three-yearlong general surgery residency in August 1954. Upon learning that he would be drafted into the Army Medical Corps,

Yasui instead opted to join the Navy and would be stationed in Iwakuni, Japan.

After being discharged from the Navy in October 1956, Yasui, with family in tow, moved to Portland, Ore., and would reside in the same house for 47 years. He joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1958 and would spend 12 years with a Marine Corps Reserve engineer battalion. He retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of captain in 1984.

Since 2015, Miki and Homer Yasui had been living at the Lakeshore in Seattle to be closer to their two daughters. Prior to that, they lived at the Cherrywood Retirement Village in Portland, Ore., in 2003.

Yasui was predeceased by his wife, Miki, who died on Dec. 14, 2018; their son, Allen Masuo Yasui; and his eight siblings. He leaves behind his three surviving children, Barbara, Meredith and John, plus eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and dozens of nieces, nephews and other extended family.

Donations in Yasui’s memory may be made to Portland JACL, the Japanese American Museum of Oregon, Densho or the Oregon Historical Society. A memorial service will be held at a later date.