Cathy Naomi Tanaka, a member of the Fukui family business who was actively involved in community activities, passed away peacefully in her sleep at her home in Hacienda Heights on March 1. He is 73 years old.
Tanaka was born in Tokyo on July 30, 1949, during the US occupation of Japan, to Soichi and Ruth Fukui. As a baby, he moved with his family to the US and settled in Los Angeles. In July 1951, her sister Chris was born and 1½ years later her brother Jerry.
Around the age of 10, Tanaka moved with his family to Windsor Hills, where he and his siblings spent the rest of their childhood. He graduated from Dorsey High School in 1968 and attended UCLA, majoring in French. After graduating, he spent a long time in Japan studying Japanese language and culture.
In 1979, Tanaka continued his father’s legacy by joining him and his brother at the Fukui Morgue as secretary and treasurer. A member of the fourth generation in the family business, he is also a licensed funeral director and a needs counselor. He continued to work at the morgue until his death.
In 1978, she married the love of her life, Masaru Tanaka. They moved to Hacienda Heights and their family grew by two when they welcomed their sons, Eric in 1980 and Ryan in 1986. He loved supporting his children in their hobbies and activities, especially basketball. The family continued to grow in 2012 when Eric married his daughter-in-law, Traci, and when Ryan fathered his first grandchild, Shay, in 2015. In 2018, he had two more grandchildren, twins Connor and Mason.
He adores his grandchildren and loves to spend time playing, reading books, and being silly with them. One of her most cherished accomplishments is becoming a grandmother.
Tanaka is dedicated to community and involved with several organizations, including the Southern California Military Intelligence Service Association, National Council of Japanese American Veterans, National Go For Broke Education Center, Nisei Veterans Coordinating Council, and the Grateful Crane Ensemble.
GFBNEC staff, directors and supporters are saddened by the passing of Tanaka. “Cathy is more than just a member of the board,” said GFBNEC President Mitchell Maki. “He is a friend to many of us; and be an inspiration to all. He demonstrated what it means to be kind and warm, while at the same time working hard for what you believe in. We will miss him very much.”
The Grateful Crane Ensemble said in a statement, “We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Cathy Tanaka, our longtime friend, Grateful Crane board member and number one dishwasher at Far East Feasts and our obento seller.
“He was literally one of those ‘behind the scenes’ players who were MVPs of every organization they were dedicated to. They don’t seek the limelight or the glory, but they do all the work. That is Cathy to us, and all the organizations involved with her. We will miss his kindness, his warm and friendly smile and his generous spirit.
“We are grateful to have known him, and thank him for everything he has done for us and our community.”
Filmmaker Cory Shiozaki posted a photo of Tanaka with the late photographer Archie Miyatake, noting that the two supported his documentary “The Manzanar Fishing Club.” “Cathy will be sorely missed for her commitment to the Go For Broke National Education Center. We will miss her energy, passion and smile,” said Shiozaki.
Tommy Dyo, Tanaka’s cousin, posted, “Cathy is very involved in the community to preserve Japanese-American stories from our past and retell them to a new generation. He serves our community with joy, compassion, and generosity. She loves her community, friends, family, but especially her sons Eric and Ryan, and her husband Masaru.
“Although she expressed her spirituality in her later years with her beloved husband in the Buddhist church, her roots are in the Christian faith. We hold on to the promises in the Scriptures: ‘I gave them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.’ — John 10:28.
“His kindness is reflected in everything he does.”
Tanaka is also passionate about the arts and enjoys playing the piano and organ, “painting and sipping” wine evenings, floral design, drawing, jewelry making, musicals, and dancing. She loves animals and over the years, has taken care of many different pets, including her beloved golden retriever, parrot and fish. When he is not with his family or participating in one of his many hobbies, he pursues and spends time with his large group of friends.
He was looking forward to visiting relatives and meeting his new son-in-law in Hiroshima this month; unfortunately, her long awaited trip with Masaru was fruitless.
She left her husband, Masaru Tanaka; children, Eric (Traci) and Ryan (Aya) Tanaka; grandchildren, Connor and Mason Tanaka, and Shay Tanaka; siblings, Chris (Kenny) Kohler and Jerry Fukui; niece, Sarah Fukui; nephew, Cary Fukui, and Kevin and Sean Kohler; he also left other relatives here and in Japan.
The visitation was held on March 12 at the Fukui Morgue. A private memorial service will be held at Nishi Hongwanji at a later date.