JACL Co-President Elaine Reiko Akagi passes away during cancer treatment


Elaine Reiko Akagi

The Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) sadly announces the passing of its co-president, Elaine Reiko Akagi.  Ms. Akagi passed away on Oct. 18, 2012 in Silver Spring, Md., where she was being treated for cancer.

Born in Detroit, Mich., Elaine attended Wayne State University, where she received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in special education. She began her life-long work with the JACL when she joined the youth council of the Detroit chapter. When she became president of the Chapter 30 years ago, she faced a major challenge when Vincent Chin was fatally beaten in a hate crime committed by two disgruntled white autoworkers. She worked tirelessly with the Organization of Chinese Americans and a legal team to seek justice for this crime.

In 1987, she moved to Seattle, where she taught visually impaired children for 34 years until she retired in 2010.  Her professional affiliations included the Seattle Education Association Representative Assembly Delegate to the Washington Education Association (WEA) and the National Education Association. She also served on the WEA Minority Affairs/Human Rights Work Team and was corresponding secretary for the Washington Special Education Association. More recently, she joined the Washington State School for the Blind Board of Trustees.

Ms. Akagi continued her work with JACL in many leadership capacities, at both the district and national levels. A tireless worker whose life’s work was to support and strengthen the JACL, she devoted her final days to providing leadership on the committee that planned and organized the National Convention in Bellevue in July 2012.

“Elaine was a person who devoted her life to the JACL,” said Bill Tashima, co-president of the JACL. “Elaine was a person with whom JACL and community engagement was a passion. Elaine was never a passive person — she was a leader.”

Her dedicated service to the organization spanning over 50 years was acknowledged at the National Convention this year, when she was presented with the JACLer of the Biennium award. (end)

A celebration of Ms. Akagi’s life will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC) Hall, 1212 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98144. Remembrances can be made to the Seattle JACL Elaine Akagi Scholarship Fund, the King County Animal Humane Society, the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington, or the Seattle NVC/NVC Foundation.

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