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Grace Aiko Amemiya
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Obituary for Grace Aiko Amemiya

Grace Aiko Obata Amemiya, 96, passed away on July 22, 2017 at Green Hills Health Care Center in Ames, Iowa. A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 2pm at Collegiate Presbyterian Church in Ames. A private burial will be held at Iowa State Cemetery.

Grace was born October 26, 1920 in Vacaville, California to Tetsugoro and Retsu (Funaki) Obata, the youngest of five children. When Grace was ten, her father passed away, and Grace decided to dedicate her life to service by becoming a nurse. Grace attended the University of California, Berkeley, and was a nursing student at University of California, San Francisco when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Two months later, Executive Order 9066 was signed and Grace and her family were sent to Turlock Assembly Center and then to an internment camp in Gila, Arizona. Grace used her nursing skills to help people in camp. Determined to continue her nurse’s training, Grace was accepted by St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota, one of a few schools who would accept Japanese-Americans released from internment camps and given their citizenship back. At Rochester she was in the US Cadet Nurse Corps, and then finished training at Schick General Army Hospital in Clinton, Iowa in 1946.

Grace moved to Cleveland, Ohio with her family and married UC Berkeley classmate, Minoru Amemiya, on Sept. 6, 1947. They moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Min attended graduate school at The Ohio State University, and Grace worked as a nurse. Following graduation they moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, then settled in Ames, Iowa in 1960. Min worked as a USDA extension agronomist while Grace focused on raising their two sons, Michael, a child with special needs, and Robert. Grace made two great commitments based on her experience in the internment camp and her disabled son. First, she volunteered at Woodward Resource Center, the YWCA and the Special Olympics for many years. Second, Grace and Min told their stories together, educating many school children and adults about internment camps. After Min passed away in 2000, Grace continued to speak around the country about her experiences until she was 95 years old.

In 2004, Grace began talks with UC dean Zina Mirsky to advance the cause of nearly 700 Japanese–American students who had their education at University of California interrupted by World War II. Grace represented these students at a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents in 2009. She and others were awarded special honorary degrees by University of California in 2010.

Grace was very active in Iowa State University Women’s Club, PEO Chapter KC, Lion’s Club, Special Olympics, Collegiate Presbyterian Church and the Japan-American Society of Iowa.

Grace was recognized by a variety of organizations. Her most recent awards were being named as the 2014 Outstanding Alumna of the Year, Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley, and her induction into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016.

Her daughter-in-law, Pat Amemiya, of Florida; two nieces, Janet Teel and Liz Nakamura, of California; and a nephew in Virginia survive Grace. Her husband, Minoru; her sons, Michael and Robert; and her parents and siblings preceded Grace in death.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Ames Foundation, Inc. with designated to the Miracle League Playground or to Collegiate Presbyterian Church in Ames.

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Previous Events

Memorial Service




2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Collegiate Presbyterian Church

159 Sheldon Ave.
Ames, IA 50014


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