Gary Susumu Imamoto, a longtime Newcastle resident who overcame hardships and wartime internment with quiet dignity and determination, died Thursday of age- related health complications, his family said. He was 93.
Mr. Imamoto led an unobtrusive life farming in Newcastle after World War II. He retired after 18 years as custodian at Rock Creek School in Auburn.
Before moving to Davis 18 months ago, he lived for more than 60 years in the same house in Newcastle. He was married for almost 70 years to his wife, Mary.
He was a steadfast member of Placer Buddhist Church in Penryn and previously belonged to the Japanese American Citizens League. He liked to fish and rarely missed a San Francisco Giants baseball game on TV. He was a genial man who chatted easily with friends and offered a hand to anyone in need.
"We lived in the country on a farm with mostly dirt roads, and neighbors would sometimes be out there patching ruts caused by the rain," said his son, William. "My dad would see someone and just walk out there with a shovel and help. He was always very good about helping people without having to be asked."
Mr. Imamoto's instinctive concern for others was shaped by heartache and struggle.
Born in 1919 in Yamaguchi, Japan, he was 3 when he immigrated to Newcastle. At 14, he left school to help support his family during the Great Depression. He was 20 when his father died, two years before the United States entered World War II and ordered the internment of all Japanese and Japanese Americans on the West Coast.
He became engaged to Loomis native Mary Minakata at the Tule Lake internment camp but was forced to leave her and relocate to Amache, Colo. He spent a winter picking sugar beets to earn money for a train trip to marry his fiancée, who had been sent to a camp in Jerome, Ark. They returned to Colorado, where their first child was born in the Amache camp.
Mr. Imamoto resettled his family in Newcastle after the war and began rebuilding his life with help from longtime farmers Al and Margaret Saladana. He worked on fruit farms and in packing sheds. He and his wife had five children. At 34, he became an American citizen.
"He talked about internment as a very unfortunate incident that he hoped no one else would ever have to go through," his son said. "Both my parents never showed any bitterness. They took an attitude of moving on with life."
With an unshakeable love for each other, Mr. Imamoto and his wife also endured the deaths of three children. Their eldest son, Stanley, died at 20 in a shooting accident. Another son, Glenn, drowned at 10. A daughter, Linda, died in infancy.
"They were very traumatic life events for our whole family, but I look back at how strong they were and how they didn't let it crush them emotionally," William Imamoto said about his parents. "My dad was a survivor."