By Pocky Mau
101 years later, she still thanks her parents
Kiyo Sato turns 101 years old this year and says she’s “blessed with a good root system.” Those roots began with her Issei Japanese parents, Shinji and Tomomi Sato, who instructed their American-born children to be good citizens and treat everyone with respect.
As Sato commemorates Day of Remembrance this month, the former Pocket resident recalls her parents’ message. She knows 82 years ago, in spite of being good citizens, Japanese Americans were treated with very little respect.
Feb. 19, 1942, was when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the forcible relocation of civilians to concentration camps. More than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were incarcerated.
Delivered by a midwife on May 8, 1923, Sato was raised on a strawberry farm near Mather Field. She and eight siblings attended Edward Kelley School, a one-room schoolhouse. Sato was valedictorian at her eighth-grade graduation.
In May 1942, the Sato family left their farm for Poston Internment Camp in Arizona. Sato was finishing her freshman year at Sacramento City College. “I became prisoner #25217-C,” she says.
She was released early to attend college in Michigan. Over the next four years, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing.
Sato enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps in 1951, with assignments in the Philippines and Japan during the Korean War. Discharged in 1952, she joined Nisei VFW Post 8985 on Fourth Street.
Sato chaired the local Nisei VFW speaker’s bureau and shared camp experiences with thousands of students and civic groups. “My goal is to help others better understand how fear and ignorance can lead to injustice,” she says. “I don’t want this to happen again to any group of people.”
She worked for Sacramento County as a public health and school nurse. An award-winning author and speaker, she was awarded the 2017 Woman of the Year Award by the California Assembly.
She finds balance with hobbies that include tai chi, hula dance and writing. Her 2007 award-winning memoir, “Kiyo’s Story,” is an account of life before and after internment.
Today Sato lives in Rancho Cordova near her daughter and works on another book, dedicated to her family. The new book recounts personal milestones and emphasizes the importance of good citizenship and respect.
“I’m puzzled,” she says, “but I’m sure there’s a reason I’ve lived this long.”
It’s cold outside but you’ll warm up dancing to the Motown tunes of the FBI Band. This dinner and dance will be held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Elks Lodge.
Menu includes beef bourguignon and great music. Early bird tickets at $45 are on sale through Feb. 3. After that, it’s $50. Contact the Elks at (916) 422-6666.
The Pocket Greenhaven Community Association is accepting scholarship applications from high school seniors for the 2024-25 college year. Two $500 scholarships will be awarded to students in the association’s residential boundaries.
“The PGCA is excited to offer scholarships to local students in our community,” association President Katie Butler says. Applications are due March 15. Visit pocketgreenhaven.org for information.
Corky Mau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.