Michio Iwao, 100, passed away peacefully in his home on Monday, February 20, 2023. He was born on July 12, 1922 to Kotama and Tomonosuke Iwao in Suisun, California. His family lived and worked on a farm. He attended Gomer School and Armijo High School. He, along with his parents and three brothers (Chiyoji, Eddie, Roy), were relocated and held at the Gila River Internment Camp from 1942 to 1945 under the War Relocation Authority during World War II. During his internment at Gila River, Arizona, he worked as a firefighter, played baseball, and learned to carve and paint birds using discarded materials found on the campgrounds. Once released, he chose to resettle in Chicago because he wanted to see the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series. Fortunately, he was able to secure a standing room only ticket to one of the games!
Michio married Jean Campbell and to this union was born three children – Michael (deceased), David and Rhonda.
Through work he met his life partner Emiko Kimura from Osaka, Japan. Michio and Emiko were married at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago in 1965 and together they raised her daughter Jackie. Michio and Emiko built a life together working hard, participating in Japanese classical dance and stage construction, fishing, bowling, traveling, gardening and serving their community. Michio and Emiko also helped to raise Jackie’s daughter, Emily. After his retirement, Michio went back to carving fish and making bird pins using many of the same tools that he made during his internment. He enjoyed sharing his life story and artwork with the community. In November 2011, he was invited to conduct a live presentation at “The Art of Gaman” exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, and the Empress of Japan received one of his bird pins at a private showing of the exhibit in Japan. Michio loved his family and was blessed with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was known for his warm smile and kind heart. He loved to teach others how to make things. He was a tremendous resource to the community and will be dearly missed by all who knew him. A private burial will take place on Saturday, February 25, 2023 and his family is planning a celebration of his life in July at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. Further details TBD. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Buddhist Temple of Chicago (https://buddhisttemplechicago.org/donate/) or the Japanese American Service Committee (https://www.jasc-chicago.org/support-jasc/).
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