She outlived the Roaring ’20s, the Depression, Pearl Harbor and the Vietnam War.
Los Altos resident Kiyoko Kaneko, known as “Kiyo” to friends, turned 100 Sept. 3, celebrating a century of milestones in American history. Kaneko recalled watching from her house near the base as planes bombed Pearl Harbor.
“Nobody knew what was happening,” she said.
Approximately 80 friends gathered in the Fellowship Hall at The Terraces at Los Altos on Pine Lane last month to commemorate Kaneko’s life and enjoy cake and sparkling wine and cider.
Terry Morrison, director of admissions at The Terraces’ health center, thanked Kaneko for bringing “her rich history” to the community.
“You have given us so many gifts,” she said.
Fellow Terraces resident Yoshiro Befu, who knew Kaneko’s brothers, recalled the entire Morey family.
A second-generation Japanese American, Kaneko was born in 1911 in South Pasadena, where her parents were prominent in the community. Her father owned a dry-goods store in Japantown in Los Angeles. After graduating from high school, Kaneko found “feelings were very high against the Japanese,” as the nation was in the full throes of war hysteria. Thinking it would be hard to find a job in the U.S., she traveled to Japan, where she attended a two-year teachers’ college, majoring in home economics. Her father spent some time in a Japanese internment camp after the police picked him up off the street – the family didn’t immediately know what had happened to him.
Kaneko met her husband, a Japanese American dentist from Hawaii, through family friends, and the couple settled in Hawaii, where they had four children: Caro, Paul, Mary Ellen and Glen. Her husband passed away at the age of 45. Her two daughters, Mary Ellen and Caro, who live in Sunnyvale and Fremont, attended the birthday party.
Asked to what she attributes her long life, Kaneko said she is often asked that question.
“The only answer I can give is to choose your parents very well,” she said – Kaneko’s father lived be 100 as well.
Cathy Jensen, The Terraces’ lifestyle director, told party guests that Kaneko has lived so long because she has been active, even joining an exercise class recently.
Kaneko’s daughter, Mary Ellen Chafey, confirmed that her mother has always been active, even snow skiing until she was 79 years old. Kaneko worked in a pediatrician’s office, on her feet every day, to support her children, Chafey said. In addition, she credited her mother’s desire to “keep learning” new things for her long life.
Kaneko loves fruit and vegetables, and has always eaten healthful foods, Chafey added.
Kaneko has lived at The Terraces, formerly Pilgrim Haven, since 2002, and only recently moved from an independent apartment to assisted living, Jensen said.
“Kiyo has made many close friends here both among the residents and the staff members,” Jensen said. “She is a delightful conversationalist and is friendly with everyone.”
After several Terraces residents paid tribute to her, Kaneko accepted birthday wishes as she wiped tears from her eyes.