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1929 Kay 2024

Kay Beisel-Ma

January 21, 1929 — January 11, 2024

Kay Beisel - Ma, Grandma, Grandma "Bicycle", Auntie - born Kazue (meaning: peace & favor) Sugita in Kobe, Japan on January 21, 1929, left us on January 11, 2024, 10 days shy of her 95th birthday. She is remembered by her 4 children - Terry Bernhardt of Anderson, SC, Gary Beisel of Rocklin, CA; Carry Beisel (Jennifer) of Hamilton, GA; and Larry Beisel (Fortunata) of Indiana and Sicily. She is also survived by her 13 grown grandchildren in California, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas; and 19 great-grandkids, including two recent additions in California. She leaves behind her younger sister, Yoshie Sugita, of Kawagoe, Japan, and 3 loving nieces from her brother - Tomoko, Shoko, and Yuki. Lastly, she is remembered by her dear friend of almost 60 years, Michi Ayhens, and her daughter Kathy Gutierrez (and family!) of California. Kay was predeceased by her husband, Robert U. Beisel; her beloved grandson, Brandon Beisel; and her brother Kenichi Sugita. Her proudest achievements were the family she created and her marriage of 62 years (to the day!). If you asked her why she married the lanky foreigner from Indiana, she would say that it wasn't a grand, passionate love affair, but his sense of humor which won her over. They enjoyed a special camaraderie, unique to them, that lasted more than 6 decades. Kay was a woman of "firsts" and took great pride in recounting stories of the war and her new life in California. As a child, she and her family survived the great Hanshin Flood of 1938 in Kobe and relocated to Tokyo in 1939. In Tokyo, she was inclined to civics (class President and rank of Major in her school ROTC program), classical music, and singing - playing the piano and singing in the operatic style. She hoped to go to the music conservatory school and become a famous singer. Her dreams were derailed when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor plunging her country into war with America. During the latter months of World War II, she was selected, along with 200 other young women, to join the first all-woman military unit in the history of modern Japan. When Japan surrendered 7 months later and the war ended, leaving her home, her city, and her country in ruins, she felt deeply disillusioned with her country and her culture. She never returned to school but was determined to have fun and let loose - she started a ukulele band and became a ballroom dance teacher. She went to typing school and got work as a secretary for the Americans ("my greatest enemy!" she would say with a wink) at Yokota Air Force Base. Her brother was in a model airplane club at the base with a guy named Bob Beisel. The rest is history, as they say! She arrived in America via San Francisco in 1953, newlywed and 24. Mrs. Beisel perfected her English by solving crossword puzzles and was a lifelong voracious reader. Eventually settling in Roseville, CA to raise her growing family, she became the first woman mail carrier for the greater Sacramento region. She truly embraced America and American culture - she loved John Wayne, Ronnie Reagan, and Clint Eastwood. She loved football (Go 49ers!), a good steak, and chihuahuas. She also loved Pavarotti, Baryshnikov, and Chopin. She spent her final 10 years living la dolce vita sans souci, under the loving care of her oldest granddaughter, Tiffany Bernhardt. She will be remembered as a woman of character and quiet strength, undaunted by life's shifting fortunes.

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