In Memoriam, Jim Motokane

By Rev. Marvin Harada

Recently we lost one of our long-time dedicated members, Jim Motokane.  Jim was one of our past presidents and has given so much of his time and life to OCBC over the years.  He passed away at the age of 90.

I am deeply indebted to Jim for how he helped me in my years of ministry, especially in my earlier years.  When I first started at OCBC, I was the first full-time English speaking minister. OCBC and our operation was quite a bit smaller in those days.  We didn’t even have a secretary. Basically, I was the secretary and also full-time minister. I had to answer the phone, talk to the drop in visitors to the office, open up for deliveries like for Obon and Hanamatsuri, and things like that.  

It was impossible to cover the office all day long, especially if there was a funeral or cemetery service off site.  Jim had taken an early retirement from Hughes Aircraft, where he was an engineer. He came to OCBC everyday. He would just do whatever needed to be done.  Sometimes he would fix things, or change light bulbs, or water plants, or do whatever.

Whenever I had to go out, like to a Southern District Ministers meeting, or to do a cemetery service or something like that, Jim would watch the office for me.  He answered the phone and did everything. Sometimes he even answered questions about Buddhism from students, but usually he told them to call me back. Quite often he took phone calls of a member whose loved one passed away, or he would take messages of families requesting to schedule a memorial service. He was like our full-time volunteer office person.

In time, the office became computerized, and checks had to be input into the computer.  Jim learned how to do those things and would process the many checks after a special service or just regular donations.  Jim then became one of the treasurers, who wrote checks to pay our temple bills or suppliers for the festivals. Many times Jim would catch a mistake or discrepancy that saved OCBC a lot of money where we were mistakenly overcharged for something.  

In those days, I probably spent more time each day with Jim than I did with my wife, Gail.  We would sit in the office and talk about all kinds of things, like our love for Vegas, and where to eat or what machines to play there.  We talked about his youth or his family, or current events. Many times we went to lunch at the former Tabiji restaurant that was across Ball Road at Dale.  They had the best nabeyaki udon, and that is what we both ordered every time.

Jim also took up golf in his retirement, and golfed regularly with his OCBC senior friends.  I joined them in golf on numerous occasions. They liked to start early, at the crack of dawn.

One of their regular courses was the Fullerton golf course.  It had a creek along many of the holes on the course and you could find a lot of golf balls in the creek area.  Jim loved to look for golf balls as he played. I kind of think that he liked that even better than golfing. Maybe it was like hunting for mushrooms or something like that to him.  He found buckets and buckets of golf balls on his many golf outings. ‘

At our festivals, Jim was one of the guys that everyone turned to when something broke down.  Jim, the rice cooker doesn’t work! Jim, the gas burner doesn’t work! Jim, the faucet is leaking!  On and on and on, Jim fixed whatever needed to be fixed. He was the first one here to open up for the sushi ladies at 6:00 a.m., and he was the last one to leave, after the cleanup, which often took till midnight in those days.  

Jim was not a complainer.  He was a doer. He just did what needed to be done.  He even cleaned the bathrooms when that was needed, even though we had a custodian that did that.  

I can recall conversations with younger guys (actually my age, so maybe not so young), about what they wanted to do someday when they retired from their work and careers.  I remember several guys mentioning to me, “When I retire, I want to be a Jim Motokane. Just come to OCBC and hang out and do odd jobs.”

Jim probably put in over twenty years as a “volunteer” secretary for OCBC.  After we got secretaries, he was still a volunteer, but he was able to go back to his repairing and doing odd jobs at OCBC.  

For those of you who are newer to OCBC, you probably don’t know Jim.  Over the past recent years he has been caring for his wife, Jeanne, and he has also had his own health issues as well.  

Every member of our Sangha is unique and special in their own way.  Jim was one of those guys that just worked so hard, never seeking recognition or acknowledgement.  I think it was a joy for him to come to OCBC and help out. I understand that he had expressed to his family that he really missed coming.  

It was Jim’s request to have a private, family only funeral service. Maybe that too was a reflection of his humble character.  I know the hondo would have been packed, had we had a funeral for him.

I can’t thank Jim in person.  I can’t pay him back for the many things he did for me or for OCBC.  The only thing I can do is quietly say, “Namuamidabutsu,” in deep gratitude, in deep reverence for a most dedicated member.  Thank you Jim, on behalf of not only me, but our entire Sangha.

Namuamidabutsu, Rev. Marvin Harada