Taro Kishi (1903-1993)

by Ida Hirasaki Bush


    Taro Kishi was born on January 4, 1903 in Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, to his parents, Kichimatsu & (Moriyama) Kishi.  Four years later, his sister, Toki, was born; but sadly, their mother passed away shortly thereafter.  So, Taro's father married again to Fuji Ogawa. Fuji is who the children always considered as their loving mother.

Taro in Japan
Immigration to Texas
The Kishi Colony

    In 1907, K. Kishi, Fuji & Taro along with other colonists immigrated to Terry, Texas.  Taro attended the one-room Terry School until 4th grade.  The next two years were at Houston Public School while boarding with Dr. Joe and Constance Bell Eskridge. Later on after Toki came to the U.S., both children commuted to Orange Public Schools by catching the 6 a.m. train at Terry Station and returning home on the 5 p.m. train.  At other times, Taro bicycled, motorcycled and later drove by car to school, especially when after-school activities such as glee club, baseball and football practices were involved.

Texas A&M

    The "Roaring 20's" were spent at Texas A&M from 1922 through 1926 where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Administration.  His position on the championship 1925 - 1926 Varsity Football team was a blocking half-back.  (One time, Taro's parents and the church ladies went to College Station to watch an A&M football game.  Miss Cleta Kennedy and Miss Eva Lane began cheering, jumping up and down, carrying on like typical football spectator fans!  The elder Kishi were SHOCKED to see them act this way, since they were such demure & genteel Southern ladies at Terry Chapel.)

    After graduation, Taro assisted his father & my father, Tokuzo Hirasaki, the Operations Manager at Kishi Farms.  His position was in Sales & Purchase. When rice production ceased, highland vegetable crops (cauliflower, lettuce, corn, melon, mainly cabbage) were grown and sold locally to green grocers in the Golden Triangle Area or was shipped out wholesale by train car loads.

    The year 1931 brought the end of Kishi Farm. However, the gallant struggle to save the farm is chronicled in a series of letters Taro wrote to his father, who was in Japan.  Taro went to work for Mitsui Limited, a Japanese shipping company, as a scrap iron inspector at various ports---New Orleans, Pensecola, Norfolk, VA & New York City.

     He met & married Mary Oni, a Japanese lady violinist, and lived in South Plain, NJ. But after Pearl Harbor 1941, U.S. authorities rounded up & questioned all Mitsui employees at Ellis Island, NY. He was photographed, finger-printed and required to carry an I.D. at all times; the young couple returned to Texas.  Unfortunately, this marriage did not last but a few years.  (My brothers remember Aunt Mary baking cookies and pulling taffy for them.)

    The decades from 1940's through 1960's, Taro rice farmed acreage in Nome, Cheek, China, Sour Lake in Jefferson County.


 Uncle Taro
   Soon after I was born in 1944, my mother, Toki Hirasaki, got dreadfully ill and almost died. My father, grandfather and grandmother had to manage Henry, George, John & me; Hana was sent temporarily to the Nagai family. Uncle Taro would get in after work, make up bottles of Pet milk formula and feed me. Later on when I was around 1 year old, he would take me to visit friends in Orange.

    We nephews & nieces were treated as if we were his own children. We fondly remember the trip to San Jacinto Monument, Battleship Texas and Galveston Island. My brothers experienced raw oysters for the first time!! On my 12th birthday, Uncle Taro treated me to a horseback ride at Tyrrell Park and dinner at a Chinese Restaurant afterwards.

Aunt Liz
    April 26, 1957, was the wedding day for Taro and Elizabeth Carter at this church (Saint Andrews Methodist Church in Vidor). Rev. Francis Fisher officiated; my brother Henry was Best Man; my mother was Matron of Honor; Mrs. Fisher, my little sister Frances and I were the witnesses and congregation.  They lived in Beaumont. Aunt Liz was an excellent cook, which attributed to Taro's good health through the years.  Hana, Frances and I would each spend a week during summer vacation at their house.
 
Vidor Methodist Church
    The Kishis became involved in Vidor Methodist Church while Robert Johnson was choir director.  He personally invited Taro to come join the chancel choir because they desperately needed a tenor; so they moved from Roberts Avenue Church to this church.

    Taro also served on the Finance Committee when the parsonage was built.  In 19__, he was the delegate to the Houston Conference; and in 1976, president of Methodist Men.  He cooked many a chop suey dinner or served Aunt Liz's special chicken 'n dumplings to attract attendance to the meetings.

    There were many close, dear friends in the Vidor Church family: Alma Polk (Mrs. John Polk) and Taro would play violin duets; once a week Roberta Jones would come over to play dominoes; every year Ruby Moreland & the Kishis would chop up cabbage with sharp knives ... no food processors or veggimatics... and make HUGH batches of chow-chow and sauerkraut.  Anna & Frank Lee and their children have been very close through the decades.

 

 

Final Years
   In the late 1970's, Aunt Liz's health began to fail and she required a lot of medical attention.  Uncle Taro came out of retirement and went back to work doing lawn and golf course maintenance to pay the bills.  In 1984, Elizabeth Kishi passed away.  Taro continued to work; it was good physical therapy for himself.  Also, he felt he needed to be a useful, productive citizen in society.  During his vacation time in November, he'd go to A&M Homecoming activities and then come to see me in Dallas.  We'd to the opera, symphony concerts, piano recitals, art museum, zoo.  We always made a point to go to sushi restaurants.

    But, in 1993, after diagnosed with lung cancer, he passed away on July 24, 1993 and was buried in Kishi Cemetery.

    Uncle Taro had a special charm to touch so many people in his daily life.  He always knew a funny Aggie joke to entertain us or recalled tales of the "old days" & humorous things that happened to him. It's hard to find a person as kind, thoughtful Christian gentleman as our dear uncle.  He may be gone from this earth but certainly not forgotten.

Presentation by Ida Hirasaki Bush to the Methodist Church in Vidor.