George K. Fujimoto

George K. Fujimoto

George Kazuo Fujimoto, 98, of Houston, formerly of Uvalde, died on March 21, 2018, in Houston.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Houston at his daughter’s residence..

He was born on Jan. 13, 1920, in Colusa, California, to Tsuya Miyoshi and Tadao Fujimoto.

He worked on a farm in Colorado with his family until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in March of 1942. He served at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and Fort Riley, Kansas. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Fort Riley the Japanese-American soldiers were rounded up and placed in their barracks where fellow soldiers pointed guns at them.

Facing discrimination head-on, Fujimoto heard about a segregated Japanese-American battalion being formed and requested a transfer to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Camp Shelby, Mississippi. After repeating basic training, Fujimoto was assigned to a service company in Alabama. He was a guard, watching over German officers captured in North Africa while the prisoners worked on the peanut farms. A German prisoner asked why he was being guarded by a Japanese man when they were allies; Fujimoto replied that he was an American.

In a truck accident on a bridge his leg was crushed, and after several surgeries, he spent a year in a body cast. Later a doctor at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, said there was no need to have been in a body cast that long, and suggested it was possibly due to prejudice against Fujimoto’s Japanese descent.

While at Fitzsimons Army Hospital, Mary Masunaga and her friends visited the soldiers to cheer them up, and the couple met. They married on June 8, 1946, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Two sons, Gerald and Walter, were born in Greeley, Colorado; and in 1952, their daughter Donna was born in Denver. Six months later the family moved to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where Fujimoto and his parents and siblings purchased farm land. Due to drought all the crops were lost. Fujimoto took on the debt and his extended family moved to Houston.

The fishing in Port Isabel and Corpus Christi was plentiful and provided food for the family. Fujimoto farmed and contracted vegetables for Brown and Miller, Frito-Lay and Campbell Soup Company. He spoke Spanish and traveled throughout the state of Texas and into Central Mexico purchasing produce.

Fujimoto loved bowling and worked part time at a bowling alley called the Grapefruit Bowl in the off season. While on the road he took his bowling ball to towns where he could substitute bowl in leagues.

He opened the Uvalde Bowling Center in the spring of 1971. He was quite good at repurposing used materials with a welder and a cutting torch, and made table bases from cultivators. He made a front desk with shoe racks and ball carriers, repaired bowling machines and gardened in his back yard.

He played poker every week with friends and served home cooked meals. Fujimoto and his wife made many friends and took hundreds of trips to bowling tournaments across the country. During 37 years spent at Uvalde Bowling Center, he became a collector of writing pens, money clips, watches, pocket knives and more. He crafted walking canes, clocks, vases, lamps, helicopters and puzzles.

Family was important to him and he advocated to his siblings the need for family reunions which continue to this day. He loved helping others and socializing; he was a fixer-upper, a bargain hunter, and a prankster who brought smiles and laughter to people.

In May of 2005, at the age of 85 he qualified in the Reno Nevada Senior National Bowling Tournament.

In January 2006 the couple moved to Houston, after selling Uvalde Bowling Center. At the age of 86 he continued to work, starting Vibrant Vitality of Houston giving treatments to people who needed to detox, relieve pain, sleep better and gain better movement in their joints.  In October 2015, he  gave his life to Jesus Christ and was baptized at Parkway Place in Houston.

One of Fujimoto’s proudest moments was receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for Japanese American Soldiers who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service during WWII, on Nov. 2, 2011, in Washington, DC.

He is survived by daughter, Donna Cole of Houston; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; four siblings; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.   

Fujimoto was preceded in death by his wife; two sons, Gerald Fujimoto and Walter Fujimoto; and two siblings.

Cards may be sent to: Donna Cole, 13611 Ashley Run, Houston, TX 77077. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice.

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