Happy Birthday, Dorothy

This November 20th our mother will be celebrating her 80th birthday. She's always been so young in spirit that it's difficult to imagine.

We had a great birthday party for my Mom on Friday, September 1st. It also happened to be close to the date that Uncle Jr. plans his retirement (September 30th) and my aunt Merle Kaneko's 80th birthday. So it was a time to celebrate their lives and contributions to the family, friends and community.

-- Cherie




Happy Birthday, Mom!

What a very special summer this has been – first the Morita Oregon reunion and now a reunion of our family in Chicago to celebrate this special year for you. It’s so wonderful to be here and share in your celebration.

You and Dad have always opened up our home to family and friends and gave us kids a warm and secure environment to grow up in. You, Mom, have so many friends of all ages. Your kindness, openness and sense of humor make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed. I have much to learn from you! You and Dad have adjusted to your new home and surroundings so quickly and are again helping to create a homey, warm atmosphere in your building.

You have given so much of yourself to us, your children, and to the family and community out of genuine love and concern. Thank you for all you have taught us!!

Have a wonderful and day and a memorable 8oth year.



Donna (Tamaki)

Dear Oba-chan,

Happy 80th birthday! I can’t even imagine how long that could be and what you went through all these years. It seems like an achievement by itself and I’m very happy to be here today for the celebration.

Since when I was a child, I’ve always thought your apartment in Chicago was my second home. Although I grew up in Japan and none of my friends had an "inaka" (second home, usually countryside) in America, it was natural to me that my "inaka" was in Chicago. When I stayed at your place during vacations, you made me feel at home and took care of me. You showed me the city that was so huge and foreign for a boy who grew up in Japan. You bought me things that I’ve never seen before. I would like to thank you for all of these things many other things that you’ve done for me.

Now I live in Chicago and I have different ideas about this city from years ago. But, living close to you and being part of the family, I feel I’m very lucky to be here. And I still think this is my home.

I hope you’ll have a very special birthday!


Hikaru (Tamaki)



Congratulations, Mom. You have reached the ranks of a treasured group of special people in the world, the octogenarians. Of course, your attainment reminds me that all three of your offspring are now in their 50s. Actually our entire immediate family is officially in the ranks of senior citizens (according to the American Association of Retired Persons).

Mom, you’ve always been a tremendous support for me at all stages of my life. From the messages we received from siblings and relatives, this is true for many others as well. Sharing your concerns, providing emotional support, and your open-door policy of hospitality and care for others less fortunate or less connected to their own families have always been the qualities that I remember the most. You have provided me with a great model as a mother, a woman, and a human being.

Growing up in Chicago, we all remember the family-centered activities that took place on birthdays and holidays, weekend picnics, dinners, and cousins gathering to play together. Despite your heavy schedule and having re-joined the workforce in the 1950s, you always had time for everyone, provided delicious meals and good company. You were interested, engaged, open and warm to everyone alike. Your attitude influenced mine toward others.

I remember friends that I made at Oberlin, from Waseda University in Tokyo, and East-West Center friends from all over Asia, landing on your doorstep and you always welcomed them to stay. When I was away in Hawaii, a friend of one of my Waseda acquaintances, whom I didn’t even know, arrived by bicycle, and you offered a place for him.

You always took time to dress us impeccably. I remember those matching Easter outfits, suits, capes, dresses and coats that you sewed with such professionalism, and every other female Kaneko cousin younger than us reaped the benefits of the finely tailored clothing you made. From feathered hats that you made (remember millinery school!), to hair permed and trimmed (remember your beautician’s license!), you taught us to care about ourselves. And as Morita Obachan grew older, you still took time to help her groom and dress herself with care.

I always felt that you cared deeply about our education. Going to private schools was a financial stretch for you and Dad, but we always felt that our education was important to you.

As I became a single mother in New York City and having no family to rely on when I was busy with work, you gladly came for long stretches to help out with Miwa. Miwa wouldn’t have been able to perform in Kabuki at the Metropolitan Opera House and Kennedy Center, if you hadn’t spent the time being the stage grandmother. And the Japanese actors all loved having you around too. Miwa treasures the times she spent with you, learning about the family, learning those special Japanese American traditions and recipes.

Your life has been about years of caring for others, as our aunts and uncles can attest to; this was especially true for Ojichan and Obachan, but also for the Issei ladies you drive to church and other events, and the seniors at Japanese American Service Committee and Heiwa Terrace who joined your exercise classes and outings.

Stay healthy and happy for a long time.




Dear Obaachan,

Happy Birthday! I am so sad that I am not able to be there with you all the celebrate. The concerts in Maine are going well. We just played in Bangor and Doverfoxcroft, and we still have two more stops to go. Yesterday we got a standing ovation!

I'm just so happy to have you as my grandmother because of all the wonderful things you have done for me. I remember all the Christmas holidays were made so special for me when you taught me how to make makisushi and mochi. Yum! And when you came all the way to NYC because my mom needed help.

I can remember coloring some of my first Easter eggs with you! My life has been so enriched because of your presence! Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful birthday celebration! Wish I could be there.


Miwa (Ikemiya)






Congratulations on your 80th birthday, Dorothy!! You've had a wonderful life and it's getting better all the time, surrounded by a loving family, supportive siblings and caring friends. We've always had a good relationship...I can't ever remember having an argument except that one time, you were trying to tell me about the birds and the bees...I was so thick-headed, you almost had to draw pictures!!

When you left the family to get married, I was lost....you having been the oldest who took charge...but somehow I got over it. You always did well academically and we younger siblings tried to keep up the family name. I remember how popular you were back in Hood River...the fellows always asking you out.... You were a very good dancer and loved it....and you had musical abilities to and took violin lessons!

I'm very proud to say I'm your sister....Bless you and enjoy many, many more...

Love, Ruth (Hidaka)


May I wish you the happiest 80th birthday!! As I reflect on my formative years in Hood River, I looked up to you for guidance. You set a very good example, achieving academic sucess in high school. Your advice to the younger Moritas was instrumental in the development of strength in character. You set a good example by working industriously to help mom and dad raise a large family.

In later years you took exceptional care of our aged parents, especially mother. That involved patience and understanding!! We are very grateful for your loyalty.

May you see many happy Birthdays!!

Love, Paul (Morita)

Dear Dorothy:

Wow, to reach eighty and to look like you do (no wrinkles!) is

wonderful. We want to thank you for all the things you did for us.

Primarily the time Paul put all our furniture money in the stock market

To double it at the time we bought the house in Elmhurst. Anyway the stocks went south and you and Hiroshi were kind enough to help us out.

I never knew anyone to be so nice until the time we (Mom, Dad, Paul you and I) drove to Colorado together. You can really tell about a person’s character when you travel together for two days. You never complained once or bossed us around but was downright pleasant all the time.

Like I tell everybody, there’s not one sister-in-law I don’t like.

Have a very nice birthday and many more!!

Love, Miyo (Morita)



Dear Dorothy,

I hope you enjoy your celebration with the family. It was good to see you in Oregon.

I remember all the parties you had at your house with all sorts of good food and good company.

May you have many, many more. Stay in good health.

Love, Wayne, Diana and Aaron (Cole)



As much as I would like to celebrate Dorothy's birthday in Chicago, I'm sorry that I won't be able to make it. She has helped us all celebrate so many of our birthdays. It is so fitting that those closest to her would especially remember her on her 80th.

It was wonderful seeing Dorothy and Hiroshi in Portland and Hood River. Listening to her remembering events in Hood River, so much of it even before we were born, was magical. It removed time and distance - a beatific moment that made us all 50 years younger. It was a Dorothy that I remembered from Hood River. There was youth, beauty, thoughtfulness, peace and love. It is a Dorothy that I will always remember.

I also know of a strong will inside. One that said, "I will die with you

before I save myself." We all laugh at that old truck rolling backwards in front of Goe's, but we will never forget that message of Dorothy and Ruth not leaving Pop's side in moments of high peril. With sisters like that, how can we ever give up on anything?

In all of my 72 years of existence, I can't recall ever having attended any of your birthday celebrations or parties, Dorothy. I'm sorry for that, but it is a message of sorts for me to look a little closer at how we were able, in Hood River, to develop as children and siblings without too many serious psychological problems. It seemed that the older members of the family were doing without so that the younger ones could have more.

I know, however, that you and Fumiko had birthday celebrations, early on, because that was one of Pop's favorite stories. He would say that he was so busy on your birthday, because he was delivering a birthday cake somewhere, probably the Rodamers, and then had to hurry like crazy to get to where Fumiko was being born.

It seems that you and Ruth were always making it possible for the younger ones to have our own celebrations, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

I know that's why I'm addicted to apple pies so much. There was so much love put into your baking.

The messages we heard at Comfort Inn in Hood River recently were spellbinding. I am so grateful to Diana for masterminding that event. It brought us together again in spirit that will never diminish.

Happy birthday, Dorothy! I'm looking for apple pie on my 110th birthday!

Claude (Morita)



Dear Dorothy,

We'd like to wish you a very, Happy 80th Birthday!!!

We wish we could be with you but we are with you in spirit.

The Portland Reunion was wonderful, but the family reunion in Hood River was THE finishing touch to a memorable time. The last night in Hood River at the Hood River Hotel and after, at the conference room at the Comfort Inn was very special. Pam playing and singing "When You Wish Upon a Star" was quite nice.

I, especially, enjoyed hearing your memories of the early years in Hood River. Thank you for writing your thoughts down and sharing them with us.

We hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip to Vancouver and Seattle.

I wonder, Dorothy, if you recall that you had helped me with the catering of my wedding. Dad had asked you to help me and you took me to Biggs and we ordered that beautiful cake with glazed roses. Biggs also assisted in the serving of the refreshments. You, also, helped me shop for my trousseau and even sewed my going away outfit. It was a light blue sleeveless dress with a navy blue coat. I don't know if I really ever thanked you the way I should have. So Dorothy, now, I thank you for your help during my happiest and nerveracking days before Shiba and my wedding. Thank you for being a loving O-ne-san to me.

Best wishes and may you be blessed with many more Happy Birthday.

Love, Betty and Shiba (Shibayama)


Dearest Dorothy: Congratulations and a VERY HAPPY 80th Birthday. I wish I could be there to celebrate the occasion with all of you. I cannot believe you will be 80 years young. You have had such a fruitful life.

This chapter of your life I feel you and Hiroshi will really enjoy your time together traveling. Both of you have been fortunate to remain as healthy as you are.

It was really fun watching the both of you enjoying your time with friends and relatives at the Portland Reunion. Thank you so much for allowing me to share the room with all of you as it was so much fun. I had more fun listening to you and Rulie and Lil talking about olden days and I think it was so nice you had the chance to spend it with them and it was a bonus for me.

Too bad we couldn't have celebrated your Birthday together while we were all together. Dorothy. I didn't realize it was so close to your Birthday but at least we will have happy memories of all being together in year 2000 with the Koidas as well. You both are both so spry and active and enjoy your life so much together. You are so fortunate to have each other. Go for it and continue to take as many trips as you see fit...not many people can do this at your age. I understood you to say your next trip is to Japan. I think that is so great. My cousin 59 years. came to visit me for one month last Christmas and now asks me to come and visit her for a month to Tokyo but you know I am a little afraid to go by myself as she told me I had to take a train to close to her home. I can't read or much less speak as well so I will really be lost.

Have a wonderful celebrations with your wonderful friends and family and I will be thinking about all of you over the Labor Day weekend.

You have been such a wonderful sister-in -law and I can still remember when I first met you. I was only 24 years old so we really have grown old together. Thank you so much for always being there for Harry and me. Have a wonderful day and love to all of you. Please send pictures.

Love, Auntie Terrie (Kaneko)




When I was growing up (I still haven't), I never took the chance to talk to Dorothy. I had some chance at my parents' 50th anniversary and at the recent Hood River reunion.

I never realized what a source of history she is. To me, she had always been

yet-another grownup telling me to stop doing something idiotic.

But she is what we would call a living treasure. I know that sounds "ancient"

doesn't sound "warm and fuzzy," but through her lips flow the knowledge and

clarity that link us to the origins of the Morita clan in the United States.

I want to thank her for passing some of her knowledge onto me, for helping me

to find out a little more about my family and myself.

Stirling (Morita)


I have many memories of being at Auntie Dorothy's house in Chicago. When I was growing up, we spent many holidays at her house. She was always the most gracious hostess. I remember fighting with all the cousins and trying to decide which of us would be the lucky two to poke out the fish's eyeball on new years. Kevin usually elbowed his

way into winning...

Whenever we went to Auntie's house, we always had a good time
playing...but sometime during the afternoon, all of us cousins would have to sit at the kitchen table with a 30 minute egg timer on. Auntie Dorothy would encourage all the children to read for half an hour. I remember thinking this was wasting my playing time and would spend most of the time kicking people under the table with my legs swinging

back and forth. But Auntie must have instilled the love of reading in us through this discipline. She is a beloved auntie, and we wish her a happy 80th birthday.

God bless you.

Much love, Teresa, Bob, Ann and Paul Matsushima August 27, 2000


Dear Auntie Dorothy:

Congratulations on this milestone birthday! Reaching my own milestone of 50 years this year, it's hard to believe that so much time has passed. It's also time to pause and reflect......on so many remembrances and the people who have helped to fashion those memories.

For me, you are one of those people, so here on your 80th birthday

celebration are some of my remembrances.

Having been one of the "terrible threesome", with Kevin and Stirling, I

remember so many family get-togethers on Clark Street, where we would run around Obachan and Ojichan's apartment and your apartment, playing war and shooting one another, or otherwise making noise. I remember running up and down the stairs in your building, playing baseball in your back driveway, and watching all of you make omochi at New Years. I remember that you always made me feel welcome in your house.....the overnights (I have a real appreciation for the parental aspect of those now), the meals and play at your place (I especially remember and still am jealous of Kevin's Alamo set).

I also remember how active you have been in the community and with the church, which I know continues to this day. I admire this and am constantly reminded from your example how this is a challenge for me.

I remember your care of Obachan for so many years, and how much you gave of yourself for her. This has more meaning for me than you can imagine, having watched my father struggle through his later years and having struggled through a decision for nursing home care. I remember Obachan's visits to my home, when you would help her dress in exquisite fashion, with her clothes carefully picked out and her hair expertly coiffed. I remember you and Hiroshi driving her to see my family.
Perhaps most importantly, Dorothy, I remember how wonderful you are and have been with my children. I remember instances in time when you would talk or play with Dan and Cait when they were small.......at Candy's wedding in Golden, I remember in the excitement of all that was happening, how you spent time with Betsy and Dan (Betsy was pregnant with Cait). I saw a side of you that I had not seen before......and I know how you enjoy the small children, and in some small way, the fact that my children have been close by geographically, you "grandmothered" them in some way.

These are all memories (with many others that I haven't listed) that I

cherish about you.

So.......... Happy Birthday!!.........and thanks for the wonderful gifts that you have given to me.

Love, your nephew,
Carey (Hidaka)

Happy Birthday Auntie Dorothy!

You have been the "caretaker" for the entire Morita family. Not only did you provide affordable rent for me while I was attending graduate school, but you have taken care of a whole host of other family members. Taking care of O'bachan and O'gichan was almost a life long job for you. As the eldest, you accepted this role, graciously in a way that demonstrated how much you cared for them. In addition to your parents, you've shared your homes with your brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and numerous friends and students from Japan. Your home has always been a safe haven for all of us!

While I was living there, you and uncle Hiroshi never complained about loud stereo or the parties that extended well into the night. Living in your apartment, I felt like I had the freedom to act as an adult. I never felt that you were checking up on me or judging me by my behaviors, many of which, my parents would have totally chewed me out.

You instilled in your kids that same caretaking spirit. Kevin has always been like an older brother to me. His coaching and mentorship throughout my younger years have not only helped me gain discipline and an appreciation for sports, but more importantly he served as a role model on how I should treat my younger brothers.

My recent health problems have allowed me to gain a new perspective on my life and the people that have influenced me. I have gained a new appreciation for people, like you, who have taken care of me and influenced my life in a positive way. If it never seemed like I was thankful or appreciative for the things you have done for me -- thank you, thank you, thank you!

I hope that you are able to enjoy this very momentous birthday.

Very sincerely,

Mark (Morita)



Dear Auntie Dorothy,

At our reunion in Hood River I just marvelled at how strong and positive the Morita family is. Everybody's story was touching and enriching and full of love. And everybody had a certain role within the family.

As I listened to your story, I was fascinated. You shared stories about

Ojichan and Obachan that no one had heard before. You had a unique perspective on their lives since you were the oldest. You worked extremely hard for the family and had responsibilities that no one else had. And you were instrumental in keeping certain traditions alive within the Morita clan.

I admire your beauty, strength, and perseverance. We here in Norway hope that you have a wonderful celebration on your 80th birthday. We wish we could be there!


Pam, Hans, and Paul-Eirik (Melhus)


Dear Auntie Dorothy,

It amazes me how your face has always looked so youthful -- it must be from having lived a good life (not an easy, simple, or uncomplicated one, but a GOOD one).

I think of you and remember your other apartment building (I can't even recall the street), but you made me feel truly welcome. There constantly seemed to be someone else to feed at your home besides your immediate family and I never once recall you EVER sitting down. The piano was the focal point of the living room and it played a major role in the life of my three extremely gifted and talented cousins who gladly-without-complaint took lessons for years.....and this goes double for Kevin (ha ha).

And what was that dark, connecting middle bedroom between the living room and the dining room(?). It was the mystery room in my childhood memory and the imaginings competed only with the interior of Ojichan's barn!

There were art lessons at the Art Institute downtown. Kevin and I were supposed to have waited for Cherie or Donna, but determined that she had forgotten us. It was obvious, after stopping at Morrow's Nut House, that we should take the subway home. I am still impressed to this day that we were so gutsy. Kids....

Thank you for buying Donna and Cherie such tasteful and high quality clothes which you faithfully passed on to me. I was sooo well-dressed. Our whole Kaneko female contingency was well-dressed thanks to you!

My memory is sketchy (after all, your niece is 50!) and the some of the details are a bit fuzzy, however, my remembrances of you and your kindnesses are very accurate for they dwell in my heart. You are living proof that a marriage can have longevity and that being a woman of kindness and generosity is a noble calling.

Thank you, Auntie Dorothy. Love, Stephanie (Suzuki)

Tributes, communications to and from family members: Junior, Dorothy

Home Page