Reiko Sakai flies home today, ending a journey that brought her more than 5,000 miles to pray at the grave of a woman she never met.
In fact, most of the 28 alumni from the Hokusei Schools attending a memorial service Tuesday at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena had never known Sarah Clark Smith.
But by founding a small Christian school for girls on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido in 1887, Smith left a legacy that was to profoundly affect the lives of thousands of students unknown to her.
The visit to the United States by the former Hokusei students marks the beginning of the 100th anniversary of Smith's journey to Japan. "As you saw, their feelings were so deep that many of them were crying," said Jun Arima, president of Hokusei College, shortly after singing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" in Japanese at the graveside service.