Ho-tze “Jerri”, “Yoriko” Johnson, 88 of Bremerton, WA got her wings on Friday, February 14, 2020. Born in Tokyo, Japan she was the eldest of 7 children. She worked as an OB nurse until moving to the United States and proudly became an American citizen. She retired early from Duty Free International Sales in Honolulu, HI to help raise her grandsons.
Beloved mother of Tei Habenicht of Bremerton, WA and Kevin Johnson of Honolulu, HI. She is survived by her cherished grandchildren; Angelina Johnson of Honolulu, HI, Samuel and Tristan Scott of Bremerton, WA. Loving sister to Mrs. Emi Won Huei and adoring aunt to Megumi Giorgio of Melbourne, FL, Hiromitsu, Hiromi and Hiroyoshi Narai of Tokyo, Japan.
February 18, 2020
Dearest Friends and Family,
I wanted to share with you that we lost mom on Valentine’s Day. She had been ill for the past month from her congestive heart failure but had stabilized enough that we sent her to rehab in hopes that she could get stronger and come home. However, on Friday morning, she had a seizure, followed by a stroke and was gone in just a few minutes. Sam, (her oldest grandson) came to be by my side.
Mom had a full and wonderful life. She was loved and will be missed by many; her stories will linger on in her memory as well as the laughter she created from them. She had an extraordinary life having been born in Tokyo but raised in Taiwan at a time when a World war was escalating. Oldest of 7 children, her parents married in taboo as mixed races were not allowed nor accepted at this time. Our grandmother was Japanese and grandfather, Chinese. They decide to raise their children in Taiwan, known as Formosa…the Republic of China, in hopes that someday they would be a free and independent people.
The Japanese invaded their island while she was an adolescent. Many of her experiences would shape who she would later become, the one thing first and foremost was resilient and strong. She lost two of her siblings during the invasion as well as their family home. My grandparents were in financial ruin but promised to rebuild. At one point, my grandfather had sold her to a brothel to provide for the rest of the family. My grandmother, horrified, hid her for nearly 2 years.
Upon recovery and rebuilding, mom returned to high school and graduated at 19. She moved onto furthering her education and became an OB nurse, along with being an excelled seamstress. In her late 20’s, she took a job in the Naval base exchange store. The American’s at this point were a solid presence on the island and she was renamed “Jerri” and this would stick with her for the rest of her life. However, in the Japanese community she would be known as “Yoriko” but never by her given Chinese name. The GI’s recruited her to do some undercover work and she assisted in identifying black marketers selling narcotics among other illicit items. However, her primary job was retail sales in the men’s department where she would meet my father in 1958. He needed a belt and she told him he was too fat for a belt!….a year later, dad sold his car to buy her a ring. She converted to Christianity (per Naval guidelines for a GI to marry a local resident) but would always remain a dedicated Buddhist.
My parents married in 1959 in Taipei and would relocate to the United States shortly after where I would be born the following year. Sadly, she never saw her mother again before her early death in 1963. My brother Kevin came along in 1964, born in California where dad was stationed and would continue to take us around the globe while he served. We would return to Japan, and mom worked for the Red Cross at the Naval hospital as well as volunteered to monitor school kids on the school bus to be closer to us each day. She did return to nursing while we lived in Minnesota for a short while and then retrained to do electronic work, building circuit boards. She ended her career working for Duty Free International in Honolulu, which she loved as it allowed her to be around high-end merchandise….as mom loved being a Diva and to be able to work around other Asians who spoke her language/s. Despite spending over 50 years in the US, mom never assimilated into the culture nor the language. My dad attempted on numerous occasions to enroll her into English as a second language but each and every time, these ladies would meet up and form friendships and drop out. Mom spoke 4 different dialects of Chinese as well as Japanese and English…well, sort of.
Mom was always a focused and dedicated worker. In her early career years, all her paychecks went to her parents to pay off debt from the war and to support her family. Over the years she developed hobbies that she loved, especially cooking. She loved nothing more that cooking as this was most definitely her language of love! She also was an artist/painter, she crocheted as well as sewed and while in Japan she was involved in competing as an Ikebantist (flower designer) and had won many awards for her design. She had a wonderful eye for design, not only in dressing herself but in her surroundings as well.
She loved her grandchildren with all her heart, adoring them to no end. Some new babies came into her life with her brother’s children having children and nothing gave her more joy than to have babies back in her life. She leaves a rich and long legacy, one filled with adventure, travel, danger, excitement and reward. Our hearts are sad and ache at her loss but we celebrate her rebirth and joyous reunion with those who have gone before her and are waiting….and we as well, look forward to seeing her on the other side.
With a grateful and loving heart, your daughter Tei
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