Lilyan Kazuko Nagata was born on September 15, 1927 in Fresno, California, the fifth child born to Saichi and Tamaji Nagata, farmers in rural Dinuba, California. She had attended the Grandview-Windsor Elementary School, learned to sew as a member of 4-H, took piano lessons, and played in the school harmonica band. After completing her freshman year at Dinuba Joint Union High School, her life was interrupted with the events of World War II and the signing of Executive Order 9066 with the forced evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific states.
On August 3, 1942, Lilyan with her parents and siblings, left Dinuba and arrived at Parker, Arizona the following day where the temperatures soared over 120 degrees. Her family was assigned to the Poston, Arizona concentration camp 3, block 305, barrack 11, apartment C for the duration of the war. She attended the Poston 3 High School, made many lifelong friends, and played volleyball, softball, and basketball. She was a “left-handed” pitcher on the block 305 girls championship softball team, and GAA championship volleyball team. She remained at Poston, Arizona until the state of California was declared open to the resettlement of Japanese Americans despite several reports of anti-Japanese incidents in Fresno and Tulare Counties. On January 29, 1945, Lilyan departed from Poston, Arizona with her parents and younger siblings.
Lilyan returned to Dinuba Joint Union High School one month before her solemn graduation ceremony in 1945. She attended the Dinuba Japanese Methodist Church and the summer Lake Sequoia Retreat during the early post-war years with her siblings. She attended the Hazmore Sewing School in San Francisco for 9 months, and returned to pack tomatoes and grapes in the Sultana/Dinuba area with her girlfriends. Her friend introduced her to an older brother, George Kiyomoto, a truck driver who lived in Reedley and they attended the Lake Sequoia Retreat and dated. On January 20, 1951, Lilyan and George Kiyomoto were married at the Dinuba Japanese Methodist Church.
They raised a family of four children in Reedley, California on the hilltop farm located on American Ave. near the “R” mountain (Mt. Campbell). Lilyan was a hard-worker, taught her children strong work ethics, as they chopped cotton, chopped & sprayed weeds, thinned tree fruit buds, removed tree suckers, tied grapevines, picked and packed tree fruit and grapes, and one year, raised and harvested squash for market. In her spare time, she worked on various sewing and knitting projects and made all of her daughter’s and her own clothes. She enrolled in several Reedley Adult School tailoring classes taught by Chiaki Taguchi, and learned to customize her patterns, sew lingerie and t-shirt fabrics. She was active in a weekly knitting circle of friends. She supported her children’s activities, transported them to baseball practices and games, helped with the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and many 4-H events. She was a “floor lady” for the Richland Sales Company fruit packing house in Dinuba for a few years. Later, she worked on the family farm and drove the truck hauling a trailer of picked fruit bins to the packinghouse. She attended all of the Reedley High School and Reedley Junior College sport events with her family, traveling out-of-town for the away games and play-off games. She enjoyed gardening and toiled in her vegetable garden, flower gardens, and maintained a collection of indoor plants. She was a long-time supporter of the Reedley Tiger Bench Club, and member of the Reedley United Methodist Fellowship Church. After the family farm was sold in 2005, she transferred her membership to the United Japanese Christian Church of Clovis, California and moved to Fresno. She was a caregiver for her husband who had developed Alzheimers’ disease, with assistance of Yolanda Rios and Lupe Singh. She began to show signs of dementia and required care at home from Yolanda Rios after her husband was placed in a memory care facility.
Lilyan Kiyomoto was released from her physical ailments on June 18, 2017 under the care of Sojourn Hospice Care at the Bella Vista Memory Care Community in Fresno, California. She is predeceased by her parents, George and Tamaji Nagata; brothers, Stan Nagata, Gordon Nagata; and sisters, Mallie Hanada, and Lydia Shiba. She is survived by her husband, George Kiyomoto of Fresno; sons: Bob Kiyomoto of Fresno, Mike Kiyomoto (Debbie Montalban) of Emeryville, and Jeff (Megumi) Kiyomoto of Irvine; and daughter: Dianne Kiyomoto (Dale Kuey) of Fresno; grandchildren: Kevin Kiyomoto of Fresno, Danelle (Jason) Okabayashi of Los Angeles, Doug Kuey of Fresno, and Derek Kuey of Irvine; brother, Ed Nagata of Kingsburg; sister, Amy Akaishi of New York; cousins, Harry Nagata, Mary Tanaka, and Sally Nagata of Fresno, Ruth Kurihara of Orosi, Dorothy Kimura of Fresno, and Ernest Nagata; brother-in-law, Sho Katayama of Boston; sister-in-laws, Marty (Tom) Suyama of Milwaukee; and June Kitagawa of San Francisco; and many dear nephews and nieces.
Burial services will be held on Saturday July 1, 2017 at 10:00 am with Rev. Akiko Miyake-Stoner officiating at the Reedley Cemetery.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 10:00 am at the United Japanese Christian Church, 136 N. Villa Ave, Clovis, CA 93612. Family requests no cut flowers.