Katherine (“Katie”) Chizuru Hirai, 91 of Caldwell, passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. She was born in Puyallup, Washington on July 11, 1926, to Johei and Hatsumo Oyama, both originally from the Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. The first years of her life were spent in Firwood, Washington before moving to Pacific City, Washington and then finally to Auburn, Washington in 1936. Her world was turned upside down on February 19, 1942 when Executive Order 9066 forced the immediate evacuation of citizens of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. They were allowed to take only what they could carry in two suitcases. The family was first forced to relocate to the Pinedale Assembly Center – riding in cattle cars for three long days. From the assembly center they were assigned to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in July of that same year. When Tule Lake was designated as a segregation camp in October of 1943, the family was once again moved, this time to the Minidoka War Relocation Center (also known as the Hunt Camp). Katie received her high school diploma from Hunt High School in February 1944.
When World War II ended, she moved briefly to Ogden, Utah, and then to Idaho in 1946, where she helped on the family farm.
Katie met Stephen (“Steve”) Hisao Hirai on a blind date. They were married in Ontario, Oregon on March 12, 1949, and settled into a life of farming. They made their home in Adrian, Oregon and started their family, which eventually grew to five children – Amy, David, Julie, Jeannie and Robert.
Tragically, Steve was killed in a farming accident in October 1966. Katie moved her family to Caldwell, where she found comfort with her three brothers and their families who lived close by. During this time, she found joy in her children and supported all of their various activities. Katie was proud of her kids and saw them through college, marriage, careers and families of their own. Katie worked for various companies before joining Hewlett Packard when they opened their disc memory division in Boise. She retired from Hewlett Packard in 1993 and proceeded to enjoy her retirement years by being a “super grandma” to seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Katie was a member of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple in Ontario, Oregon. She had many long-time friends and a long line of loyal, spoiled dogs. She was adored by all for her kind and generous ways. Katie was a wonderful cook, and her special dishes were an important part of the family tradition. Katie enjoyed crocheting, baking (cakes and zucchini bread), shopping, gardening, playing cards and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Katie was preceded in death by her husband Steve, father Johei, mother Hatsumo, brothers Takeo, Takao, Noboru James, and Mitsugu Roy.
She is survived by her children and their spouses, Amy and Dean Hayashida of Caldwell, David and Michelle Hirai of Boise, Julie Hirai and Ross Yamasaki of Beaverton, OR, Jeannie and Pat Driscoll of Caldwell, and Robert and Wendy Hirai of Boise; her grandchildren and their families, Kristin and Joe Porraz (Joseph, Abrianna) of Nampa, Karin Hayashida and fiancé Adam Sweeney of Seattle, WA, Stephen Hirai and fiancé Rachel White of Portland, OR, Kimberly and Jeff Katalenich of Richland, WA, Ryan Driscoll of Nampa, Stephanie Okubo of Caldwell, and Katie and Sean Niemann (Sophia, Owen) of Meridian. Katie also leaves behind a niece and numerous nephews.
The family would like to thank Dr. James Gardner of St. Alphonsus Medical Group for his compassionate care, Ermelinda of St. Luke’s Hospice for her gentle guidance, and our extended family who supported us during Mom’s final months.
Katie’s family will receive friends on Monday evening July 31st from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Dakan Funeral Chapel, Caldwell. Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 1st at Dakan Chapel. Burial will follow at Canyon Hill Cemetery, Caldwell. Condolences may be shared at www.dakanfuneral.com