Friends are invited to a Memorial Celebration for Tad’s life at Sunset Mortuary on Sunday, November 19, 2023 at 1 p.m. A live stream will be available. A reception will follow at the Berkeley Methodist United Church at 1710 Carleton Avenue in Berkeley, CA.
In lieu of flowers, charitable donations in Tad’s memory can be made to J-Sei, a Japanese American community service agency which provided key support programs for Tad and Lily in their aging years.Donate to J-Sei
Proud. Feisty. Gregarious and humorous. A charming and entertaining storyteller. Kind, when he wanted to be. His grandchildren gasped in delight at his magic trick wizardry and fondly recall how he stood outside to wave goodbye as you drove away and waited until you were completely out of sight before walking back towards his house.
Tadashi “Tad” Yoshii embraced life for 102 years and passed away peacefully in his home on Sunday, October 8, 2023.
He was born in West Oakland on July 28, 1921 to Seisuke and Misao Yoshii, immigrants from Japan at the turn of the century. The family lived in a single room tucked behind the Palace Restaurant, a neighborhood diner where his parents worked and later owned, on the corner of W. Grand and San Pablo Avenue. Tad admired his older brother, Kiyoshi, who protected him from bullies. After school, they played with neighborhood friends outside the diner or went fishing at Lake Merritt.
Tad graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1938, and enrolled in Merritt College to study typewriter repair and Italian language. He became discouraged with schooling, however, when he saw his older brother being denied employment because of his race. With his father’s approval, Tad dropped out to work alongside his mother at the restaurant. The Palace was memorable for the feeling of community among neighboring businesses and residents, entrepreneurship at it’s finest.
World War II forced Tad’s family to abandon their home and The Palace. While Kiyoshi was drafted into the war to fight for the decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Tad and his parents were incarcerated first at Tanforan Assembly Center and later in Topaz, Utah. Tad was enraged, but wanted to make his brother proud and enlisted himself the following year and served in France and Belgium.
When the war ended, his parents were released from the barbed wire of Topaz and returned to Oakland only to find their home and restaurant destroyed. Kiyoshi was also injured with a prosthetic arm, thus Tad was thrust into the role of caretaker for his family. They resided at the Richmond housing projects designated for Japanese American returnees, where Tad met the love of his life, Lily Sakamoto. Tad and Lily married and settled in Berkeley, California to raise their three children, Ken, Michael, and Judy.
Tad had a beautiful tenor voice and would serenade Lily with, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and “Hawaiian Wedding Song”. Date nights were spent at jazz clubs on Market Street in San Francisco. They were sporty tennis players and avid bowlers with stylish outfits accessorized from head to toe. He was a diehard Raiders, A’s, and Warriors fan – in that order — regularly attending games in Oakland.
Tad worked in the produce industry where many Japanese Americans were able to secure employment after the war. He considered his vocation a work of art, long before the popularization of Community Supported Agriculture and urban farming. He had impeccable penmanship and designed colorful handmade signs outside of the market. Their family lived a humble and modest life, and he often worked an extra work shift to make ends meet. As the cook of the family, Tad methodically prepared the heartiest beef stew, pot of beans, and macaroni salad, and always had fresh produce on hand.
In 1958, Tad’s father passed suddenly and the family later moved to El Cerrito to be closer to Tad’s mother, where he visited her nearly everyday until she came to live with the family. He left a bell at her bedside she could ring at any time for his response on a moment’s notice. As she rang the bell to demonstrate how this worked, she shared a wink and smile of approval when Tad entered the room, “Yes, Momma, what do you need?”
His unwavering faith in God and optimism for humanity was widely known. He whispered the Lord’s Prayer when the car warmed up in the morning and by the time he said, “Amen”, he was ready to roll out of the driveway. Psalm 23 displayed prominently above his desk and recited before bedtime.
In retirement, an afternoon at the A’s game with Lily was heaven. Tad loved to make people smile and laugh, and could strike up a conversation with a complete stranger during their travels. New friends always had an invitation to join family gatherings during the holidays.
For most aging couples, it is unknown who will depart this world first. In the case of Tad and Lily, her health began to fail first in her nineties. Tad’s caregiving instincts nurtured her during the last years of her life, until she passed days before their 69th Anniversary. Following her passing, his sole priority was to visit her tomb daily. He routinely picked flowers at the market, made a small floral arrangement for the kitchen table, and carefully wrapped the rest in fresh newspaper to bring to her gravesite. When he could not get a ride from his caretaker, one of his children, or a friend, he claimed that he walked to the cemetery and back from his home. We confirmed this was “fake news” that he reported to compel someone to drive him there.
Later in life, he treasured time spent with friends and family. Tad loved a party, unwrapping gifts at a sloth like pace to conserve wrapping paper, show gratitude, and model patience. He pretended to be modest and no-fuss, but truly enjoyed being the center of attention. While he had selective hearing when receiving compliments, he made sure everyone heard them and smiled when they were repeated. He is survived by his three children: Ken Yoshii, Michael Yoshii (Suzanne), Judy Fukumae (Jaime), seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, beloved families of his nephews and nieces, and dearest friends. He is preceded in death by his wife, Lily Yoshii, and brother, Kiyoshi Yoshii.
Tad was the first person to turn to in times of need. He knew exactly what to say to make you feel special, and made sure others were comforted and fed before worrying about himself. His secret to living a long life was walking daily, eating a nourishing breakfast, and expressing kindness and gratitude to others.
Friends are invited to a Memorial Celebration for Tad’s life at Sunset Mortuary on Sunday, November 19, 2023 at 1 p.m. A live stream of the service will be available. A reception will follow at the Berkeley Methodist United Church at 1710 Carleton Avenue in Berkeley, CA.
Charitable donations in his memory can be made to J-Sei, a Japanese American community service agency which provided key support programs for Tad and Lily in their aging years at https://j-sei.org/donate/