Ichiro "George" Azumano, a Japanese-American who was discharged from the Army and confined in an internment camp in World War II and then spent the rest of his life working to improve U.S.-Japanese relations, died Monday at 95.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Azumano was was taken to an internment camp because of his Japanese heritage. He was freed in 1944 and in 1949 founded Azumano travel.
He went on to build relationships between Japan and Oregon, working with governors and mayors. He was a key figure in inaugural direct flights in1983 between Portland and Tokyo.
His family wrote the following eulogy.
Ichiro “George” Azumano was born in Portland in 1918. His parents gave him his American name, George, years after he was born.
The son of Japanese immigrants who owned a grocery store in the city’s Albina neighborhood, George’s parents strongly believed in education and insisted he not only finish high school, but that he go on to college.
George was involved in the Japanese American sports leagues, including baseball and basketball. He attended Japanese school in the late 1920s and early 1930s, graduated from Jefferson HS and received a BS from the University of Oregon in 1940.
George was in the U.S. Army stationed at Angel Island in San Francisco when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. Soon after, however, he was discharged because of his Japanese heritage.
When he returned to Portland, he and his family were soon evacuated to the concentration camp in Minidoka, Idaho. George temporarily left the campgrounds for various jobs working in the sugar beets fields near camp and an automobile battery manufacturing company in Dayton, Ohio. He was finally released from camp in October 1944 and worked for the U.S. Army Ordinances Department in Utah.
Not long after WWII, he established an insurance agency that catered primarily to his fellow Oregonians of Japanese ancestry. Shortly thereafter, his insurance customers began seeking travel advise from George and he eventually opened his own travel business in 1949 that later became Azumano Travel. Today, Azumano Travel is one of the most successful and well‐respected businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest.
George was an active member of the Epworth Methodist Church for all of his life. A life‐long Rotarian, George also served on the General Board of Pensions for the United Methodist Church, as a Willamette University trustee, and on the Japanese American National Museum's Board of Trustees and in many roles within the travel industry.
He was nominated by Senator Hatfield to the Region 10 Federal Civil Rights Commission and appointed by Governor Attiyah to the Oregon Tourism Commission. George also played an instrumental part in the organization of Governor Hatfield’s first Trade Mission to Japan from Oregon in 1961. In 1982, the Japanese government awarded him the Emperor's Medal of the 4th Order of the Rising Sun.
George passed away peacefully the morning of December 9, 2013, with family at his side. He is survived by his daughters, Loen Dozono (Sho) and Betty Orazio (Gary); his son, James Azumano (Lois); his step‐daughter, Annie Migaki (Jerry); nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren; in addition to other loving family and friends. Tentative service arrangements are scheduled for 12/28/2013 with additional information to be released soon.
George, known by many as “Mr. Azumano”, led a productive life as a successful businessman, respected community leader and devote family man. Although he will be missed, his contributions have made our world and community a far better place.