Edwin Masanori Uyeki died peacefully in his sleep at home on October 15, 2022. He was 94 years old. Ed, as he was known to all, was a thoughtful and generous man of keen observation, dry wit, an innovative, outside-the-box thinker, and a deeply caring family man. He was devoted to Aiko, his wife of over 71 years, who was always in his thoughts and heart.

Ed was born in Seattle, the second of three sons, second generation nisei children to first generation issei parents from Japan. He had a happy and mischief-filled childhood, fishing and having fun with his best buddy ‘Chuyo’ – freed from the responsibilities of working in the family dry goods store, unlike older brother Eugene, who was expected to help. Then their world turned upside down with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and his dread on that day could not have prepared him for the time his family was incarcerated, initially at the Puyallup ‘Assembly Center’ (formerly state fairgrounds), and finally three years in the Minidoka ‘Relocation Camp’ in the middle of an Idaho desert. Despite the harsh conditions behind barbed wire, Ed and his family tried to make the best of their time, whether swimming in irrigation ditches, harvesting sugar beets or helping to build and play on a basketball court. Ed excelled in his studies, graduating in his junior year and delivered a hope-filled graduation speech to his high school class. Over the years, Ed battled and overcame the trauma of that incarceration, to being at peace within himself.

Under the mentoring wing of “Father Joe” Kitagawa, family friend and Episcopalian priest, Ed and brothers Eugene and Lloyd all attended private colleges on scholarships after they left the camp. Ed’s children loved looking at his Kenyon College yearbook, especially the pages with photographs of the handsome and quiet college student. He shared stories of playing pool with classmate Paul Newman (yes, that one!) Aiko and daughter Terry cherish the memory of meeting Ed’s fellow alum Paul on a film set in Kansas City, after he had welcomed Paul to KC, sending him a copy of their yearbook photo. Paul graciously invited Ed and family to the set.

Ed met the love of his life, Aiko, at a party in Chicago, where they were both students at the University of Chicago. She recalls how handsome, worldly and ‘cool’ he was, well-read on the news of the day, dressed impeccably in ironed shirts, and agile at blowing smoke rings. After a short courtship, they were married on campus, and before he received his doctorate in pharmacology, daughter Terry was born, an early graduation gift, and the first of the third generation sansei in the Uyeki family. After two years, he began a post-doctorate post at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, and they had two more children, Bill and Amy. Ed and Aiko enjoyed having family close, with his parents and Eugene’s family living in the Cleveland area, with a small Japanese American community providing cultural and familial ties.

Ed’s career as a cellular research scientist took the family across the country, to doing radiation biology research for General Electric Company at the Hanford reactor, outside Richland, Washington, to the Midwest, teaching medical and graduate students as professor of pharmacology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Over 30 years, he did pioneering tissue culture research on the toxicity to the immune system of anti-tumor drugs, studied effects of insecticides on embryo development, and was among the first to examine programmed cell death (apoptosis) rates as an early marker of drug toxicity. Aiko and he formed life-long friendships with his colleagues and spouses through the years, and his children fondly remember holiday dinners at which visiting foreign researchers and lab technicians always had a seat at the table. Ed and Aiko traveled the world, through his sabbatical leaves and professional meetings from Scotland to Japan.

Ed’s hobbies and interests changed over the years, and the family treasures the black and white photos he took of family and developed in his home darkroom. His children attest to his influence on their career and recreational passions, beginning with his skills as a teacher and his own athleticism from his younger days. Bill’s lifelong passion with fishing began with Ed, from reservoirs in Washington state, the streams of Colorado, to the first day of trout-fishing in Missouri. Amy and Bill were key players on their sports teams from grade school through high school, excelling in baseball, softball, football, tennis, and basketball, aided by Ed’s enthusiastic coaching and encouragement to do one’s best. Terry’s love of folk music came from listening to Ed’s favorite artists like the Weavers, Harry Belafonte, and John McCutcheon. She worked for Ed, writing grant proposals and research papers, and because of his mentoring, worked towards a career in research. The family cherishes memories of his harmonica playing and his love of music of all genres, including classical and opera.

Ed was a huge sports fan to the end. His first favorite professional teams were the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the Cleveland Browns football team. His allegiance shifted with his family’s Midwest move to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas University Jayhawks men’s college basketball team. Though Ed and Aiko moved from Kansas City in 1994, he continued to follow KU with shared enthusiasm from other family members.

When Ed and Aiko retired to McKinleyville, they joined the local Unitarian Fellowship, and to this day, their closest friends locally have been fellowship members. Ed participated in bird watching and mushroom hunting with friends, meditation at the local Zen center, and read religious thought by such spiritual leaders as Krishnamurti, Pema Chodron, and Shunryu Suzuki. He was an inventive chef, and Thanksgiving feasts took on a North Coast flavor when he smoked salmon in his cast iron kamado smoker served with his secret citrus wasabi sauce. Before the “mule” shoe came in vogue, Ed creatively had cut out the back of his tennis shoes for easy on-and-off.

Above all, Ed was devoted to and supported his children and grandchildren. Ed and Aiko were once-a-week willing babysitters for their four grandchildren, Brooke, Robin, Chisa, and Mei Lan. He was a constant presence at their soccer, basketball games, plays and dance recitals, and there was mutual enjoyment of conversations with his adult grandchildren on topics ranging from philosophy and science, to childhood recollections. Children and grandchildren felt cherished and special in Ed’s eyes – this type of affection from a man of few words is a quality that we will always hold deep in our hearts.

The love and care that Ed and Aiko bestowed upon their family is their intergenerational legacy. Ed truly adored his sweetheart of 72 years, Aiko. Her brief hospitalization at the beginning of this year, after her breaking a hip and having a stroke, with COVID lockdowns prohibiting family visitors, was an extreme hardship for Ed as he missed her so. But his and Aiko’s deep love for each other overcame that hardship, as it had numerous times during their marriage spanning decades. Together, he and Aiko met the challenges of raising a family as post-incarcerated nisei, embodying gaman, the strength to endure the unbearable with patience and dignity.

In a reflective presentation about his spiritual path he gave to the Unitarian Fellowship 5 years ago, he closed with, “… in the December of my life, I can only say that I have tried to support my children and grandchildren, to embody truth and love in their lives.” And indeed, he did.

A celebration of life will be planned for the spring of 2023. Persons wishing to honor his legacy may make donations in his name to one of the following:

  • For the establishment of a fund for scholarships for Asian American first generation college students, the Uyeki Scholarship Fund [c/o HAF+WRCF, 363 Indianola Road, Bayside CA 95524, or online https://hafoundation.org/UyekiScholarshipFund].

  • Student scholarships at his alma mater, Kenyon College [The Kenyon Fund, 1 Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022-9623 or online at gift.kenyon.edu].

  • The Humboldt Asian and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity [c/o The Ink People, 627 3rd St. Eureka, CA 95501]


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Ed Uyeki’s loved onesThe Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email news@lostcoastoutpost.com.