“Terry” Teruye Nakamura (nee Yamashita)
October 3, 1929 - October 19, 2019
With profound sadness, the family of Terry Nakamura announces the unexpected passing of our beloved wife, mother, and bachan. Though her physical heart weakened, her sense of humour and generous spirit never did.
She leaves George Nakamura, her loving husband of fifty-eight years; four sons, Raymond (Lenora Ho), John, Rance, Paul (Silvina Rocca); and two granddaughters, Risa and Nina.
She worked with her husband George to build Clearmount Plastics and later volunteered her organizational skills to the Toronto Japanese Language School. In retirement, she traveled the world and enjoyed old movies.
A service in her honour will be held at the Sugar Maple Hall in the Funeral Centre of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, 375 Mt. Pleasant Road on Saturday October 26, 2019. 10 am - Visitation; 11 am - Ceremony
Growing Up on Powell Street
Terry was born Teruye Yamashita on October 3rd, 1929, at the family apartment on Gore Avenue, in the heart of the vibrant Japanese Canadian community along Powell Street in Vancouver B.C.
Her father, Shintaro, originally from Hiroshima, ran Yama Taxi and an electrical shop. Her mother, Yoshiko was involved with the businesses as well as Japanese cultural activities, such as koto and ikebana.
Teruye was known as “Teru”, for short, and later, Terry. After graduating from the Catholic Mission kindergarten, she attended Strathcona Elementary school. Every weekday, after regular school, she went to Japanese school on Alexander Street from 4 to 6 pm.
When she was 11, Terry contracted pneumonia, a serious illness in those days. She had to stay home for most of grade six and took six months to recover. Once she got better, her mother enrolled her in Odori (Japanese dance) lessons twice a week, as a form of exercise to rebuild her strength. Her first teacher, Hayako, did more modern dances. Later, Terry studied under Tonogai sensei, who taught the more classical, Wakayagi style. The studio, above a store on Alexander Street, featured a big room for about six students. Terry studied with Ikumi, her younger sister, and Harumi, her future sister-in-law.
For practise, the girls wore cotton yukata, saving the fancy silk kimono for concerts. At these well-attended performances, held at least once a year at the Japanese School Hall, each girl usually danced twice, either individually or with a partner, and then joined a finale with the whole troupe. Afterward, they would go out for lemon pie at the New Pier Cafe.
In the late 1930s Terry performed at the newly opened Hotel Vancouver as a member of the odori troupe, and appeared on a float for the royal visit to Vancouver. When she had time, she enjoyed watching the Asahi baseball team at the Powell Grounds, or going to see movies, like her all-time favourite, Gone with the Wind.
In 1942, when the Canadian government forced the relocation of Japanese Canadians living on the coast of British Columbia, the Yamashitas had to sell off what they could, including the formerly thriving taxi business. With Yoshiko pregnant, they moved to a self-supporting site known as Minto Mines to keep the family together. Shintaro was able to get a job driving a truck for a local sawmill. Terry studied at first by correspondence and then followed her older brother Bob to Kamloops, BC. She “school-girled” at a home where she cleaned house and baby-sat in exchange for room and board. She went to a Catholic school, St. Anne’s academy, for grade 10, but the following year, switched to Kamloops high school, which included more Japanese Canadians. She finished high school at Alma College, a United Church girls school in St. Thomas, Ontario, through the sponsorship of Mr. Nishimoto, a caretaker there, a former Yama Taxi driver.
Terry worked in the kitchen at the College to cover half her tuition. This also allowed her to take piano lessons for half price. By 1948, she graduated from the secretarial program and hoped to attend Western university to become a dietician. But had moved to Toronto by then and her mother wanted her to come to their new home.
Settling in Toronto
After a short stay on Queen Street, they moved to 212 Langley Avenue, found by another former Yama Taxi driver, Harry Kumano. They first rented and eventually bought the semi-detached house, which Terry would live in for more than fifty years. She found her first job in Toronto as a secretary at Uniform Register, making $25 a week, with which she helped pay for the house and piano lessons. She eventually earned her grade eight in piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music and contemplated becoming a piano teacher.
Sadly, Yoshiko suffered a heart attack in 1954. Terry then had to cook for the family, and look after her youngest brother Jiro.
She was, however, able to continue with her Odori and performed on a CBC television program called The Joan Fairfax Show.
Building a Business and a Family
Toward end of the 1950’s, Terry began seeing George Nakamura, the younger brother of Gord, who was going with her long-time friend Harumi. After some ups and downs, Terry eventually married George in 1961. George started a Lucite plastics company called Clearmount Plastics. Terry kept the books, while keeping track of their four boys, born between 1962-1966. When they began school, Terry became active in the Parent Teacher Association. She also made the boys attend Saturday morning Japanese School, in exchange for the privilege to play hockey. She trained and scheduled the boys to perform household chores, volunteered as secretary for the Ijikai , which raised funds for the Toronto Japanese Language School, and recognized the value of computers for running their business. Terry’s father, Shintaro, who had been living with her growing family at the Langley house, passed away in 1971.
As the boys became less dependent, Terry found time to take up the koto, the Japanese stringed instrument her mother used to play. Her mother also inspired Terry’s love of food. Every year, she eagerly prepared for Shogatsu, her New Year’s Day open house for family and friends. When Terry and George sold their business in 1990, they enjoyed travelling to see different parts of world, from Egypt to Australia. She was also delighted to become a bachan to granddaughters, Risa and Nina.
Eventually, Terry’s heart and kidneys slowed her down, but she continued to enjoy old movies and persevered with her trademark optimism and good humour.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Centres