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John Yamazaki; Episcopal Priest at St. Mary's


The Rev. John H.M. Yamazaki, who followed in his father's footsteps as the beloved and long-tenured pastor of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, has died. He was 83.

Yamazaki, whose father, John M. Yamazaki, headed that church from 1913 until 1956, died Thursday in Santa Monica, spokesmen for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles said Friday. Yamazaki had suffered a series of strokes during the past year and had a brain tumor.

"This church has lost one of its great leaders and a devoted pastor, not only among Japanese Americans from the time of internment and 50 years thereafter but to us all," said the Rt. Rev. Frederick H. Borsch, bishop of the six-county diocese.

Yamazaki was a newly ordained minister in 1942 when he was interned and sent to the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona as minister for other interned Japanese Americans during World War II. After two years there, he spent two years helping Japanese Americans relocate to southern Ohio.

Born in Los Angeles, Yamazaki graduated from Los Angeles High School, UCLA and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, an Episcopal seminary in Berkeley.

After the war, Yamazaki became his father's assistant at St. Mary's, at Mariposa Avenue and 9th Street. Founded in 1907 as a mission ministering to the Japanese-born, the church in the younger Yamazaki's era had evolved into a multiracial congregation.

Yamazaki helped guide development of St. Mary's from mission to parish and, when his father retired in 1956, took over as rector. His father died in 1985 at 100.

After his own retirement from St. Mary's in 1986, the younger Yamazaki served on the bishop's staff until last year as diocese missioner for the Asian American ministry.

In 1971, Yamazaki was appointed a canon--a key advisor to the bishop and cathedral of the diocese. The Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Echo Park includes the Yamazaki Family Room in tribute to him and his family.

Yamazaki served on boards of the Wilshire YMCA, the Boy Scouts of America, the University Religious Conference, the Japanese Children's Home of Southern California, the Religion and Labor Council and the Los Angeles County Conference on Human Relations. He served as chaplain of the Nisei Veterans Assn. and the 14th District Optimist International Club.

A widower, Yamazaki is survived by a daughter, Sarah J. Wong; two sons, Mark W. and Francis M.; a sister, Louise; two brothers, Peter and James; and seven grandchildren.

Requiem Eucharist is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 961 S. Mariposa Ave., with burial at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Evergreen Cemetery, 204 N. Evergreen Ave.

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