Obituary: Frances “Kimi” Kato

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Kimi Kato (Courtesy photo)

With her family by her bedside, Kimi Kato (age 101) passed away peacefully on July 9, 2022 at her home in Winters, Calif. Kimi was born on Nov. 15, 1920, in Sacramento, Calif. to Saichiro and Kimie Nakamura. Kimi was predeceased by her husband Pete Kato whom she was married to for 60 years before he passed away on Dec. 31, 2010.

Kimi and her younger sister Chiyo were raised on their 10-acre strawberry farm in Elk Grove, Calif. Kimi worked before and after school to help on the family farm, and at age 18 she attended seamstress school. Her first job was working as a seamstress in a dress shop in Sacramento, and in the summer she would help on the family farm. Working in the “city” of Sacramento was a fun period of time for Kimi as she enjoyed wearing dresses, stockings, heels, and carrying cute handbags. She often met friends after work to go shopping or to go to the movies.

On May 27, 1942, at the age of 21, Kimi and her family were summoned to the Fresno assembly center and transported to an internment camp in Jerome, Ark. As World War II raged on, Kimi and other U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were forced to live in “camp” for almost four years. After Kimi returned home she went to work at a tomato cannery in Walnut Grove, Calif. There, she met a handsome man named Pete, who had just returned from serving in the United States of America Army as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Pete and Kimi were married on Feb. 26, 1950, at the Sacramento Buddhist Church in front of 150 guests. With the help of a friend, Kimi made her beautiful wedding dress by hand in just three days. Pete and Kimi honeymooned in Half Moon Bay and San Diego, before returning to their first home together in Winters. Shortly thereafter they started a family when Kimi was 29 years old.

Kimi’s most happy times were spent with Pete and their family: son Ken Kato; daughter Christine Walton and her husband Bill; granddaughters Melissa (Willard) Overgaard and her husband Mark, and Nancy (Walton) Ha and her husband Tim; and great-granddaughters Kendall and Presley Overgaard and Alana Ha. Family gatherings always centered around the kitchen where Kimi lovingly made the most delicious meals. She would spend hours preparing and cooking platters and bowls of food such as cucumber salad, teriyaki beef and chicken skewers, sushi, chow mein, spaghetti, and tempura shrimp. Kimi’s greatest joy came from seeing the approving smiles of her guests.

In addition to cooking, Kimi enjoyed crocheting, playing BINGO, and playing slot machines in Lake Tahoe, Reno, Las Vegas, and Cache Creek. She wore red lipstick daily while taking pride in being a farmer’s wife. Kimi cared for her own mother for many years with patience and grace and Kimi’s smile and giggle was given freely, no matter what she was faced with. Kimi Kato was truly one of a kind. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will endure.

A celebration of Kimi’s life is planned for Tuesday, July 26, at 11 a.m., at the Winters Community Center. A private burial will be at the Winters Cemetery at a later date.

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