Gary Morio Toji passed away on June 29, 2016 at the age of 93 at the Chaparral House in Berkeley. Gary was born in Oakland, California on April 20, 1923 and was a lifelong resident of Berkeley.
He is survived by his wife Kimiko Doi, sons Gary Martin and Wayne Russell, daughter Joanne Gondo, son-in-law Suzuo Gondo of Katy, Texas, two grandsons David Morio Gondo of Phoenix, Arizona, and Kevin Toshio Gondo of Palo Alto, sisters Alice Mitani and Martha (Don) Uejo, and many nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces.
His childhood was fun, often after supper he played games with all the kids in the neighborhood, kick the can, hide-and-go-seek, and roller skate. During the summer vacation, he went fishing everyday to Lake Merritt and caught smelts. The family had fish often, deep fried, pickled fish, and fish burgers.
He took over the cleaning of the apartment stairs for his mother earning 50 cents an hour. This is when he decided he wanted to become a landlord and collect rent. In 1938, he ran in JACL Jr. Olympics Class C. 50 yards dash and anchored a relay team, which he won two ribbons. He graduated from Oakland High School on June 1941. He majored in drafting all through high school, wanting to become an aeronautical draftsman. He enrolled at “Cal Flyers” at Englewood Airport in Los Angeles.
He was transferred to Topaz, Utah, the Permanent War Relocation Center, on September 1942. He was able to leave the relocation center when he got a job at St. Marks Hospital in Salt Lake City. At the hospital, his job was to help in the pharmacy and supply room delivering supplies to each ward. His goal was to relocate to the east coast and attend school. Each week, he would send a care package to his mother and sisters in camp.
He moved to New York City, working at Hotel New York “Circular Bar” as a bar-boy. During the day, he attended Optical School. After one year in New York City and finishing school, he was drafted into the army. At Camp Hood, he trained in the Anti-Tank Outfit, specializing with 57mm cannons. He spent time in France guarding the German prisoners. After 2 years in the Army, he was discharged and relocated near the Richmond Housing Project.
He got married to Kimiko Doi at Ohtani Church in Berkeley on February 19, 1950. One year later, his son, Gary, was born then Wayne, and 4 years later Joanne. His career consisted of being an optician in San Francisco and a real estate broker and investor in the Bay Area. As he mentioned before, he always wanted to be a landlord.
At the age of 57, he was diagnosed with angina. His doctor told him he had better start exercising. That advice triggered a running career. At the age of 62, he retired and concentrated on running that lasted until his late 70’s. He competed in many marathons over his lifetime including, Bay to Breakers in S.F., N.Y. Marathon and Boston Marathon. In 1990, he qualified for the Boston Marathon. It was his favorite marathon to run. He got a write up in the local newspaper and the Uejo kids gave him a party. Since turning 70 in April 1993, he won 26 of 27 races in the over 70 age division ranging from 5Ks to marathons. He also had proven to be a devoted coach helping his wife recover from breast cancer, hysterectomy, aneurysm, and pelvic fracture surgeries.
Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, July 9th at Sunset View Mortuary, 101 Colusa Ave., El Cerrito. Officiating will be Reverend Ken Yamada.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to J-Sei, 1285 66th Street, Emeryville, California 94608. They were instrumental in guiding our family over the years.