Hiroo Kitaoka #4861


Memorial for Hiroo Kitaoka – #4861
by Arthur Lee #L 7984 01-09-2014

Hiroo Kitaoka
Hiroo Kitaoka

Long time IWCS member Hiroo Kitaoka passed away on November 4, 2013 at the age of 94. He is survived by his 5 children, 8 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren and a sister. The November 2004 WoW carried a reprint of a newspaper article about Hiroo’s earlier life. During WWII, he and his family were sent to an internment camp in Arizona. Hiroo worked at several jobs at the camp. He built a wood lathe and tools in his spare time while assigned to the camp machine shop, which led to his life-long love of wood and turning. Years later when asked about his experiences in the camp, Hiroo said he felt no resentment towards the US government, because bad things were and are happening all over the world.

I first met Hiroo about 10 or 12 years ago at a Lake Yale meeting in Florida, where his children had brought him from the snowy February climate of Minneapolis to enjoy the warm Florida weather. Hiroo brought his picture album to share some of his projects. I remember looking at a beautiful Japanese shoji screen panel he had built. Hiroo also enjoyed making tiled geometric platters. Attached are a couple of photos of Hiroo displaying his art work at Boutwells Landing, a senior community near Minneapolis where he lived.

Hiroo also liked to turn large bowls and platters, the ones where you need a chain hoist to mount the blank on the lathe. His son, Harold provided a few pictures of Hiroo turning a koa wood hollow-form bowl 11″ in diameter and 8″ high, along with a couple other large bowl projects.

A few years after our initial meeting in Florida, I learned one of Hiroo’s daughters, Laura, was a close friend of my sister, Becky. Small world! I visited my sister in 2010 and stopped by to visit Hiroo at Boutwells. I wrote a short article published in the March/April 2010 WoW about the visit. Although he was not able to travel in the past few years, he enjoyed reading all of the activities and articles in the WoW. His daughter invited me to see Hiroo shop they had built for him at their home. Hiroo taught wood turning to his children and some of them have continued the hobby. The equipment in the shop was designed to handle big turning projects, and the loft was packed with large pieces of wood waiting to be turned. Laura sent me a DVD of Hiroo gluing and assembling a mosaic platter then turning it. I will post a link on the IWCS web site.

Hiroo enjoyed cracking jokes with friends and family. In one of the pictures, you can see him having fun with Bill Perkins and John Davis cutting a piece of bamboo for a flute at Lake Yale in 2006. Hiroo enjoyed a long life and loving family and friends. He found happiness in many things, which may have been the key to his longevity.

Video of Hiroo turning and other photos of his turnings.

Obituary Notice for Hiroo Kitaoka:

Age 94, of Oak Park Heights Passed Away on November 4, 2013 Preceded in death by wife, Shizu, parents, Kosuke and Masako, and sister, Martha. Survived by children, Roy of Ormond Beach, FL, Carol Ann Richardson of St. Joseph, MI, Laura McLean (David) of Stillwater, MN, Gary of Woodbury, MN and Harold (Linda) of Rochester, MN; 8 grandchildren; 3 great grandchildren; and sister, Sady Sakai. Memorial service for family and friends to celebrate his life will be held at 10:30AM Saturday, November 16, 2013 at the SWANSON MEMORIAL CHAPEL at BOUTWELL’S LANDING, 5600 Norwich Parkway, Oak Park Heights, MN. Family will greet friends one half hour prior to the service. Memorials preferred to the International Wood Collectors Society or a charity of your choice . 651-439-5511