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Mary Kimoto, 'different' victim of Pearl Harbor, dies at age 90
Mary Kimoto Tomita, the Japanese-American Ceres woman who was trapped in Japan because of a journey occuring on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, died recently at the age of 90.

The former Ceres resident died of pneumonia on March 9, 2009 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland. She was a resident of Oakland since 1950.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on April 19 at Berkeley Chinese Community Church, 2117 Acton St., Berkeley.

The daughter of Japanese immigrants, Mary was raised on a 20-acre Ceres farm and graduated from Modesto Junior College. The independent-minded Ceres woman went to Japan for two years to learn the Japanese language. During her return trip, Pearl Habor, Hawaii was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, and her ship was turned away. She spent the next four years in deprivation, danger and cultural collision. Her experiences and letters sent to home at the time were published in a Stanford University Press book in 1995: "Dear Miye: Letters Home from Japan 1939-1946." The book won an outstanding book award from the Association for Asian American Studies in 1996. The work provides a look at the innermost thoughts and feelings of a young Mary Kimoto through her correspondence to friend Miye Yamasaki, and later with another United States-born nisei, Kay Oka.

Mrs. Tomita finally returned home in 1947 and settled in Oakland in 1950. She earned three degrees from UC Berkeley: a bachelor's in history and masters degrees in Oriental studies and library science. Mrs. Tomita worked as a school librarian, and helped to organize the Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries within the United Church of Christ. The group helped to demonstrate for human rights in the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, South Africa and the United States.

She leaves behind her sister, Dr. Blanche Baler of Ann Arbor, Mich. She was preceded in death by son, Toyoji Peter Tomita in 2008 and husband Paul Yoneo Tomita in 1970.

Remembrances may be sent to Sycamore Congregational Church, UCC, 1111 Navellier St., El Cerrito, CA 94530; or to PAAM (Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries), UCC, c/o No. Cal PAAM Treasurer R. Lee, 676 Amador St., Richmond, CA 94805.