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Celebrating Joy Nagamori Ito

ITO, Toshiko Joy Nagamori

September 19, 1924 – July 14, 2018

On 14 July 2018, which would have been her 73rd wedding anniversary, Toshiko “Joy” Nagamori Ito left this world to join her husband James in the next. She was born 19 September 1924 to Kei Hiraoka Nagamori and Seiichiro Nagamori at Clara Barton Hospital in Los Angeles and passed away at Atherton Baptist Homes in Alhambra. She was 93.

Known to friends as Joy, she grew up in the family home on St. George St. in the Los Feliz district, attending Ivanhoe Elementary and Thomas Starr King Junior High. Her senior year at John Marshall High School was interrupted by WWII and the incarceration of all persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast. She and her family were forced from their home and incarcerated first at the Santa Anita race track assembly center and then the internment camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Joy was one of the few LAUSD students of Japanese ancestry who still graduated with the Class of 1942, Principal W. Bruce Kirkpatrick delivering her diploma to Santa Anita. While interned, Joy applied to and was accepted by National College in Kansas City, Missouri, now the St. Paul School of Theology.

The person processing her application to leave the internment camp was James Ito, whom she would marry 14 July 1945. At the end of the war the family returned to Los Angeles, the tragic details are captured in the Emmy Award winning documentary The Legacy of Heart Mountain as well as in her book, Memoirs of Toshi Ito, published in 2009.

Joy completed her BA at Chapman College and received her teaching credential from Immaculate Heart College. Joy taught generations of kindergarten students at Elysian Heights Elementary School for almost 3 decades. She was grateful for guidance from James B. Taylor and Beverly Mason. She and Jim enjoyed a decades long relationship with Mt. Hollywood Congregational Church and Pastor Allan Hunter.

After retiring Joy and Jim moved to Laguna Woods and joined Laguna Country Methodist Church. They volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Saddleback Hospital, Kiwanis, South County Outreach, and they enjoyed traveling the world. They were steadfast in their support of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

Joy spent the last 5 years of her life as part of the loving and caring community at Atherton Baptist Homes in Alhambra. She delighted in flower arranging and was adept at origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. She was active in her support of Chapman University, HMWF, and a loyal subscriber to the Rafu Shimpo.


Joy is survived by daughter Chrislyn Kodama (Eric) and son retired Judge Lance Ito (Margaret York), grandchildren Kevin Kodama (Ana) and Sherri Densmore (Chris) and cherished great grandchildren Amaiya Kodama and Cora Densmore.

Celebration of Life: 18 August at 11:00 a.m. at Sage Granada Park Methodist Church, 1850 W. Hellman Ave, Alhambra 91803. Shades of pink and aloha shirts welcome. In lieu of flowers and koden, the family sincerely requests donations to the Heart Mountain

Wyoming Foundation,

1539 Road 19, Powell, WY 82435. (213) 749-1449


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