Our friend James Shiyogo Sakauye died unexpectedly on October 21, 2015. He had been a member of the Sacramento Friends Meeting for 42 years.
James was born in Penryn, California, on November 22, 1936, the second of four children. His parents, Shizuye Uyeda and Shinobu Sakauye, were born in this country. James's grandfather had immigrated from Japan as a bachelor, and his grandmother came as a "picture bride," that is, in an arranged marriage.
James's parents owned a fruit ranch of pears and plums in Penryn. Theirs was a typical ranch life of hard work for all. In the spring of 1942, when James was only five years old, he and his family were interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans. The family was first at Tule Lake in northern California, and then at Heart Mountain in the wilderness of Wyoming, a site he was to revisit many years later. After the war the Sakauyes return to their ranch.
James's career was in the U.S. Postal Service, first as a Sacramento city mail carrier and later in the Fort Sutter branch on Alhambra Boulevard. He brought the mail from the meeting mailbox every week for years. After retiring, he worked part-time as a janitor at Walmart; he was happy there and appreciated the job with less stress.
James married Sandra Rodriguez in 1986. When Sandy was diagnosed with cancer, James cared for her lovingly until her death. After that James became closer to his siblings.
We do not know what first brought James to the Sacramento Friends Meeting. He became a member in 1973. In his letter requesting to join, he wrote,
I don't think that I can explain it in terms of seeing the Light but this meeting represents to me Jesus Christ at work, and not just someone that is studied about in the Bible.
Only with the simplicity of the Friends can I truly feel a nearness to God and the Fellowship.
Finally, I want to help this meeting in its work for humanity, expecially where it is unpopular to the public such as penal reform.
One day soon after submitting his letter, James and several others had gathered for a committee meeting when someone said, "Why don't we just question James now?" Frances Taylor recalls that James "turned green"! He was relieved when it was over.
In the early years of James's membership he was very active, attending potlucks, Ben Lomond Quaker Center, and becoming involved in the Sacramento Religious Community for Peace, a coalition of faith communities founded by Rachael Gross of this meeting. The SRCP worked toward international peace, especially nuclear non-proliferation.
James was a humble, quiet man, and not inclined to socialize after meeting. In recent years Friends knew him best through his spoken ministry. His forceful messages revealed a strong sense of justice and compassion for those who suffer. The longterm effects and implications of the Japanese American internment were close to his heart. James grieved over government injustices. He spoke for Gay rights.
James took his beliefs to the public. Carl Ingram, a family friend, wrote,
We also knew him as the insightful author of letters to the Sacramento Bee. Always they were brief, consisting of only three or four sentences of carefully chosen words. Although simple and direct, they were laserlike in honing in on a wide variety of issues that needed intelligent commentary.
In recent years James noticed how much the children of the meeting liked potato chips. Henceforth a bag of potato chips appeared each week on the refreshment table.