In Memoriam, Norman Nishioka

By Rev. Marvin Harada

This past month we lost two long-time dedicated members and past presidents, Jim Motokane and Norman Nishioka.  The two of them were the best of friends. In this article I would like to pay tribute to Norman Nishioka.

Norman was another of those dedicated members who used to amaze me by how hard he could work.  He was also amazing because he was the epitome of a “handy man,” who could fix or work on anything.  His specialty was electrical, and he used to take care of all of our electrical issues, like our lighting and wiring for the festivals.  But Norman could do more than electrical. He was good at carpentry, plumbing, mechanical, computers, just about anything that you could imagine.  

Norman was the first one to teach me how to use a computer when I first started at OCBC.  Since he lived close to OCBC, if anything broke down, Norman was the first person we called.  In the two OCBC residences I have lived in, I don’t know how many times Norman has fixed something at our house.  When OCBC purchased the Calico house right behind the social hall, it was a true “fixer-upper.” Amazingly, a whole team of volunteers did all the work to fix up the house for us to live in.  They put in new overhead lights, which Norman directed. They sanded floors, put in new tiles, new cabinetry, and made the house like brand new. It was literally a full-time job for guys like Norman, for easily 3 or 4 months.  They worked every day on the house, some days 9 or 10 hours. OCBC saved a ton of money having guys like Norman do the work.

I could see though, that Norman loved those projects.  Maybe after retiring as an engineer, he missed working on “projects.”  He took on many “projects” for OCBC in his retirement.

For Norman’s funeral, I composed a Buddhist name, or Homyo for him.  His Buddhist name is pronounced, SHIN-SEN, and it consists of the following two Chinese characters 進先.The first character SHIN 進, means “to move forward, to advance, to proceed,” and it is the character for Norman’s Japanese name, which is Susumu.  The second character, SEN 先, means “prior, before,” It is the character that is used in the word “Sensei 先生” (prior-to live) in Japanese.  Here, “Sensei,” which means “teacher,” refers to someone who lives “prior” or before you, which means they have the life experience to teach and guide others.  For Norman’s Buddhist name, I combined the character of his Japanese name, Susumu 進with the first character for teacher, or “Sensei.” I have translated it as “One who leads before us.”  

We have a lot of hard workers at OCBC.  I think that our present generation of active and hard-working members are that way because of the example they have seen from members like Norman Nishioka.  That is why Norman is one who “leads,” mainly by example.

I can recall that years ago, when we had our festivals, we cleaned up everything and then there was a delicious late meal of leftovers for the workers.  Everyone sort of “hung around the social hall,” waiting for the ok to start eating. Finally, when the festival chairperson said, “Okay, we finished the cleanup.  Go ahead and eat,” everyone jumped in to get food. We would be sitting around eating and talking and relaxing after a long, hard weekend of work at the festival. Inevitably, I would see Norman still outside, putting things away that others had left behind, or doing the tasks that no one knew needed to be done at cleanup.  Finally, after many had finished eating, in Norman would come, literally the last one working. I don’t know how many times I saw that scene.

True leadership is by example, more than by words.  Norman was the epitome of the example of being a dedicated, hard-working member.  He learned it from previous, dedicated hard-working members, and he has passed on that dedicated spirit through his example, like a baton in a relay race.  

Norman is now one who “leads before us” as he enters the world of Nirvana, the world of enlightenment, the Pure Land.  

Our life is short and fleeting and even 80 or 90 years goes by in a flash, but during the years of life that we are given, if we can do something for others, for one’s church or temple, for one’s community, for one’s Sangha, then when our life comes to an end, there is nothing to regret.  As they say in sports, “Leave it all out there on the court or the field.” We give 110% of our being, even to the point of exhaustion, and when it is all over, there is nothing to regret, nothing left undone. We have done all that we could do, and maybe even more.

The example of dedicated members like Norman Nishioka never fades away.  It has already been imparted to the next generation, and it will be passed on by them to others in the same manner.  

Namuamidabutsu,

Rev. Marvin Harada