Obituary: Frances “Kimi” Kato – Winters Express

Kimi Kato (courtesy photo)

With his family at his bedside, Kimi Kato (101) died peacefully on July 9, 2022 at his home in Winters, California. Kimi was born on November 15, 1920 in Sacramento, California to Saichiro and Kimie Nakamura. Kimi was predeceased by her husband Pete Kato to whom she was married for 60 years before his death on December 31, 2010.

Kimi and her younger sister Chiyo grew up on their 10-acre strawberry farm in Elk Grove, California. Kimi worked before and after school to help out on the family farm, and at 18 she attended a sewing school. Her first job was working as a seamstress in a clothing store in Sacramento, and in the summers she helped on the family farm. Working in the “town” of Sacramento was a fun 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 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, Kimi and other American citizens of Japanese descent were forced to live in “camp” for nearly four years. After Kimi returned home, she went to work at a tomato cannery in Walnut Grove, California. There she met a handsome man named Pete, who had just returned from serving in the United States Army as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Pete and Kimi were married on February 26, 1950 at the Sacramento Buddhist Church in front of 150 guests. With the help of a friend, Kimi handcrafted her stunning wedding dress in just three days. Pete and Kimi honeymooned in Half Moon Bay and San Diego, before moving back to their first home together in Winters. Soon after, they started a family when Kimi was 29.

Kimi’s happiest times have been spent with Pete and their family: son Ken Kato; his 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 prepared the most delicious meals. She spent hours preparing and cooking plates and bowls of food like cucumber salad, teriyaki beef and chicken skewers, sushi, chow mein, spaghetti and shrimp tempura. Kimi’s greatest joy came from seeing the approving smiles of her guests.

Besides cooking, Kimi enjoyed crocheting, BINGO and playing slot machines in Lake Tahoe, Reno, Las Vegas and Cache Creek. She wore lipstick every day while being proud to be a farmer’s wife. Kimi cared for her own mother for many years with patience and grace and Kimi’s smile and laughter were given freely no matter what she faced. Kimi Kato was truly one of a kind. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will live on.

A celebration of Kimi’s life is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26 at 11 a.m. at the Winters Community Center. A private interment will take place in Winters Cemetery at a later date.

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