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Mary Niyuki Kariya
March 6, 1926 ~ November 19, 2023 (age 97) 97 Years Old
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Born March 6, 1926 in Gardena, CA to Umajiro and Masa Takayama. Entered heaven, after 97 years, on 11/19/23 from her home in Pauma Valley, CA, surrounded by her children Brian Kariya of Los Gatos, Alan Kariya (Colleen) of San Jose, Rick Kariya of Pauma Valley, and Suzanne Kariya-Ramos (Roland) of Honolulu. A celebration will be held at North Coast Church-Pauma on December 16, 2023 at 1100 with a reception following.
Mary mainly grew up in Buena Park. Upon moving to Santa Fe Springs, Mary lost her only sibling, sister Midori. A year later, this talkative teenager’s attendance at Whittier Union High School was abruptly cut short by the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. In a few months, with her mom and dad, they took what they could carry to the horse stalls of Santa Anita Racetrack then on to Rohwer, Arkansas. After being incarcerated for over two years, her parents decided to return to Japan. So, they were sent to Tule Lake for nearly two more years. Once in Japan, Mary stayed for five years working for the Military Government before she bravely ventured back to California. Those who knew her then described her as outgoing, friendly, adventurous, chatty, pretty, and energetic! From a house girl in Burlingame to picking strawberries in Buena Park to becoming a skilled seamstress in Los Angeles, Mary relied on dear friends from her “camp” days and fellow Americans she befriended during her time in Japan. Those friends endured and blessed her for some 8 decades.
A vivacious Mary married a young farmer, Yoneo Kariya, in December of 1955. Soon after, Mary assumed the toughest, most challenging and most prestigious job in the world. As CEO of her growing family, they escaped the row crops of Orange County for the orange groves in Pauma Valley. Her unabashed devotion to serving, training and loving her family both immediate and extended was truly her greatest legacy. It was her actions more than her words that demonstrated God’s unconditional love for us all. A Proverbs 31 woman was built into that small frame of a lady. A simple, selfless servant who found true contentment and satisfaction in putting others before herself. Her many hats of tutor, seamstress, cheerleader, referee, cook-san, coach and corrections officer made her an unforgettable force in God’s family. Mary’s endearing, Christ-like qualities have blessed us all and we can only hope to replicate such characteristics in our own lives. Her adorable nature will forever be loved and admired for the rest of our days until that moment we reunite with her in heaven!