Noda—Grace Kyoko Noda, 98, on March 14, 2018, at her home in Davis, Calif., peacefully. Grace was born on January 14, 1920, in Berkeley, Calif., to Yoshi Imamoto and James Zenichi. She attended University of California, Berkeley, until the middle of her senior year, when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States detained more than 120,000 Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066. Because her parents were Japanese Language teachers, they were among the first people detained and were separated from each other and their children for many months. She and her sisters closed up their home and left with only what they could carry, living at Santa Anita Racetrack Assembly Center in Los Angeles, Calif., in horse stalls whose lingering urine smell made many detainees ill, including her mother when she was later reunited with them. In the fall of 1942 they were sent to a camp in Jerome, Ark., where her father would later join them.
Being detained and deemed an enemy alien in her birth country profoundly shaped her in the years ahead. The Quaker belief in pacifism and social justice spoke to her, and after the war she volunteered for two years in Japan with American Friends Service Committee, caring for children orphaned by the war, an experience she viewed as atonement for the brief resentment she had felt at being Japanese. With a teaching credential from University of California, Los Angeles, she taught second graders for 10 years in Richmond, Calif., the first Asian teacher in the school district. She met Grant Noda while they were both living in Berkeley, and they married in 1955 and in 1959 moved to Davis.
Her quiet activism endured. With two other Friends, she established Davis Meeting in the early ’60s. She and her family marched against the Vietnam War, and she worked for 18-year-old’s right to vote; counseled conscientious objectors; marched in celebration of the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and in her 70s protested at a nuclear weapons facility, leading to her arrest. For years she stood with other Quakers in a weekly silent antiwar vigil in downtown Davis. Active in local politics, she volunteered at Friends Committee on Legislation of California, joined Cesar Chavez’s boycotts centered on farm workers’ unjust treatment, helped to develop what became International House Davis, served on the board of mental health group home Pine Tree Gardens, and volunteered at homeless service agency Loaves and Fishes.
She attended and supported opera, ballet, and the theatre, making costumes for Sacramento Opera Company and Davis Comic Opera, and contributing to Mondavi Center and Pitzer Center at University of California, Davis. She was also a San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan, especially enjoyed her grandchildren’s soccer games, and watched all sports on TV, even bowling. She liked cultural travels in Asia or Europe and was never happier than when she was living out of a suitcase. She traveled to over 48 countries before even going to the Caribbean. At 75, sleeping in hammocks in mud-floored huts was no deterrent to her venture to Guatemala with Grant and two other Friends as a Witness for Peace in the government handover of land parcels to farmers.
For all this activity, she was the loving, accepting heart of her family. Her full and adventurous life was filled with forgiveness; gentle humor; and constant work for peace, harmony, and social justice. Grace is survived by her husband, Grant Noda; her children, Kathy Miura (Steve) and Tanya Yan (Harvey); and three grandchildren.