Helen Emiko (Kondo) Okai, 91, passed away at Edgewood Memory Care Center in Fruitland, ID on November 11, 2022. Helen was born on July 23, 1931, in Gresham, OR to Roy Ken Kondo, (known as Ken Kondo) and June (Takashima) Kondo. Helen grew up on the family farm in Gresham and, as a young girl, helped with the harvest of the various produce they grew, including brussel sprouts, cauliflower and berries.
In 1942, Helen and her family were relocated from their home in Gresham to the Portland stock yard 'Pacific Livestock Exposition Center before being sent to the Tule Lake, CA Relocation Camp. Eventually, the Japanese-Americans at the camp were allowed to leave the if they moved "inland" so in 1943, her family rented land in the Boise, ID area to farm. The following year, they moved to Jamieson, OR near Vale where her family purchased 160 acres and started farming once again.
Helen attended Vale High School, where she was active in school sports. She was named valedictorian of her class in 1944. Helen then attended Oregon State University where she majored in Home Economics. Helen also attended business school, which enabled her to use her bookkeeping and office skills at an onion packing shed, courthouse and eventually Tom and Helen's own farming operation.
Helen and Tom married on August 4, 1953, in Santa Monica, CA. Tom served in the Korean War from 1953 until his discharge in 1955. They then moved to the Nyssa-Adrian area and farmed until Tom's death in 1995.
Helen was an excellent cook and hard worker, tending to her garden and mowing her large lawn up until she was in her mid-80s. Helen enjoyed bowling, playing card games, (especially Shanghai Rummy), puzzles, trips to Jackpot, knitting and doing embroidery work. Helen was an accomplished homemaker, business partner, and pianist, having played for many weddings during her younger years.
She was a member of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple in Ontario, OR.
Survivors include her daughter, Terri Iseri, grandchildren, Kylie and Cam Iseri, sisters-in-law Lois and Alice Kondo, and Sachi Tokirio. She is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
Helen was preceded in death by her husband, Tom Okai, Sr., her son, Tom (Tommy) Okai, Jr., and her brothers, Dr. Roy Ken Kondo (known as Roy), John, Henry and Oscar Kondo, and her sister, Mary Wakabayashio
A joint service in memory of Helen and her son, Tommy, who passed away on May 30, 2022 will be held on April 24, 2023 at Lienkaemper Funeral Chapel in Ontario Oregon at 11:00 am.
The Okai family would like to extend special thanks to Helen's hospice nurse, Travis at Enhabit Hospice, Dr. David Brauer, and to the Edgewood staff for their loving care and touching tribute to Helen.