Yaeko Yamazaki Morton, 87, passed away peacefully on October 9 in Panama City, Florida, due to a lengthy illness.
She was born in Tokyo, Japan, to Ayako Sato Yamazaki and Heihachi Yamazaki on April 1, 1932, and would be the eldest of the Yamazaki family’s four daughters.
As a young adult living in post-war Japan, Yaeko’s life was sharply defined by survival and adaptation. She worked as a nurse in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, for several years before immigrating to the United States in 1960. There, she raised six children in California and Maryland, imparting to them her Buddhist wisdom, irresistible humor and tough-as-nails attitude.
“Chant ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ (Japanese prayer) to ‘Gohon-Sama’ (Buddhist deity),” she would often say to loved ones in her thick Japanese accent. She believed compassion was possible within all human beings; but so, too, the need to defend the most important part of her life—her family: “Anyone mess with my family, they mess with me,” she would warn.
Known lovingly as “Mamachan” to family, Yaeko thrived in the company of others. Standing at only 5-feet tall and never declining an offer to dance, she often surprised onlookers by taking over the dance floor with expert ballroom dance moves. She never missed Bingo night, spoiled her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, served up Japanese feasts for anyone who walked through the front door and enjoyed her favorite plum sake whiskey in conversations with friends.
As her children ultimately settled in the American South, Yaeko also made homes in Jonesboro, Louisiana; Fort Worth, Texas; and Panama City, Florida.
She is survived by her six children: Emi Yamazaki, of Panama City, Fla; Margaret Aguirre of Fort Worth, Tex.; Richard Morton, of Quitman, La; Barbara DuBois, of Southport, Fla.; Joan Horton, of Quitman, La.; William Morton, of Fort Worth, Tex.; sister Shizue Osada and family in Fuchinobe, Japan; and 20 grandchildren and 27 great-children throughout the United States.
She will be missed beyond words. A Buddhist service will be held at a to-be-determined date in Fort Worth, Tex. Flowers and donations are respectfully declined.