Haruko (Ishizaka) Rainsberry died on Friday, May 29, 2020 at a local care facility in Pendleton, Oregon at the age of 95. She was born January 16, 1925 in Nagasaki City, Japan. She resided in Pendleton from the 1970s to the time of her death.
A quiet and reserved person, Haruko kept her home country close to her heart. Her home was decorated with simple, yet beautiful reminders of Japan. Vertical landscapes. Japanese dolls. A tea setting. Orchids.
Little is known at this time about her early years in Nagasaki. We do have some information from newspaper articles and other sources, including Haruko herself. Haruko was an A-bomb survivor, a hibakusha, of the Aug. 9, 1945 bombing of Nagasaki. Her life was spared because the office building where she worked was protected by a hill from the direct effect of the blast.
Having experienced many tragic circumstances in her life, Haruko found a light of happiness and love when she met U.S. Air Force serviceman Lynn Rainsberry who was from Oroville, Washington. They met at dances while he was stationed at the Yokota Air Force Base, near the picturesque Mt. Fuji. They were married in Japan in 1958 and she began a new chapter in her life, living after that time in the USA. Haruko and Lynn lived in various places including North Dakota, Montana, Illinois, Arizona and Missouri. In Washington state they lived in Oroville and Ephrata before their marriage ended.
With limitations of language, anti-U.S. sentiment in Japan and anti-Japan sentiment in the U.S., one can imagine how difficult life was at times for Haruko. She was one of an estimated 45,000 “war brides” who came to the USA from post-war Japan. To help her navigate these challenges, she had new family in the U.S. and friends and she maintained ties with family and friends in Japan. She had a special place in her heart for children. Aunt Ruth, as she was known to her nieces and nephews, was a dear favorite in the Rainsberry family.
Learning to drive was a joyful and frightening step of independence, with her first car being a Volkswagen bug. She was very much attached to her feisty dachshund, Duke, who she called Dukey, and he was very protective of her. While living in Pendleton she was employed at Eastern Oregon Hospital. She also did volunteer work at the Pendleton Public Library.
She had family in Japan of which we know very little. Two of her cousins and a brother-in-law were killed as a result of the bombing of Nagasaki.
Haruko maintained ties to her roots with an extensive collection of Japanese language recordings and through her friendships within the native Japanese community. In May 1997 she attended a war brides convention in Tokyo with her friend Miyoko Nelson and she also participated with medical follow-up, radiation studies and membership in an A-bomb survivor group over the years. Because of her life experience, her words from a 1965 news article hold deep meaning: “I hope it never happens again.”
It is known that Haruko had a brother and sister in Japan and likely has nieces and nephews and further extended family, which is being researched.
Haruko is survived by Rainsberry family nieces and nephews, Merlin, Kevin, Ann, Alana, Jan, Patty, Susie, Deanna, Peggy, John, Debby and Dennise; and predeceased by nieces, Gai and Julie and nephews, Nick and Wally, Jr.
She is survived by special friends Pamela, Lige, Miki, Jeanne, Joanne, Mark, Penny, Mrs. Baxter, Mihoko, and assuredly, many others. She was predeceased by friends Tina and Miyoko.
Special thanks to her personal representative Toshiko and her husband Jack for handling all of Haruko’s affairs when she was no longer able to live independently due to health issues. Special thanks to Riki, who prepared Japanese food for Haruko and who was a source of comfort during her last years.
Interment was at Olney Cemetery in Pendleton by arrangement of Burns Mortuary.
An informal gathering to honor Haruko-san will be planned at a future date, to take place in Pendleton when safety allows. For information, please send email inquiry to Tim Reierson at HonorHaruko@gmail.com. Any information is also welcomed for purposes of contacting family and friends in Japan. Farewell to a beautiful flower, in sun and rain, Haruko-san.