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Martha Kurihara

September 6, 2017

Martie was married to Lloyd Kurihara in 1950 and has four children: Paul, Evelyn, Linda and Janis. She has 10 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Martie was adopted by her daughter-in-law Teresita’s family, the Almanza’s, here in Sanger. By association the most recent “grandson” who came to read books to grandma was Nicholas Castellanos, who referred to her as “little grandma”.  Tere’s sister, Mary Magallon, is the actual grandma and Evie is his mother.  Yolanda Almanza’s family joined with the Kuriharas to form a very strong bond.

Martie graduated with honors from California State University of Fresno on Jan 26, 1968, Summa Cum Laude, Top Ten of her Class.  Martha received her Master of Arts in English, June 17, 1976.

Martie was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Sanger and lived in Sanger since 1987.  She worked with curriculum design and the vacation bible school for many years   She was in the choir and the Sunshine singers.  She was the lay representative for the congregation at the United Methodist Conference for several years.  Martie was always a woman of spirit.

She loved books and words. She was a librarian one year living in Reedley before Paul was born. There is a story about Uncle Ernie, he wanted her to read the funnies on Sunday as a child and that was her first memory of reading.  She would even read cereal boxes at the breakfast table.  Martie could quote the Bible, Chaucer or Shakespeare. She could tell you the scientific names of animals, trees and plants. Living was an opportunity to learn.

Martie was very nearsighted and did not receive glasses until she was 12 years old in the Internment Camp for Japanese Americans.  Before glasses, she took the challenge of going to the blackboard, reading all the information, memorizing it and going back to her desk to write it down.  This created an almost photographic memory. The world of books and nature opened to her with her new vision.

She restarted the Wilson School PTA with the help of Mrs. Lomeli and Mrs. Cardinas while Mr. Argelben was principal until Mr. Kirchner became a principal. After she had taught school for several years, she represented the teachers to negotiate salaries and benefits.  She was not afraid to speak at school board meetings for what she felt was right.

She taught 7thth grade English at Washington Jr. High School for Sanger Unified School District from 1968 –1989 and later tutored Adult Education Independent Studies one on one for Reedley Jr. College.  All students at Washington, including Linda and Tere, that had grammar from Mrs. Kurihara could recite the following 23 linking verbs: Am, Are, Is, Was, Were, Be, Being, Been. Can, Could, Shall, Should, Will, Would, May, Might, Must, Have, Has, Had, Did, Do, Does.

She focused on young students who moved from childhood to adulthood and believed they could learn and learning was power for their future. She had hope and believed everyone she met could succeed and overcome any barrier.

In her last of year of teaching, she rose to the challenge of tutoring Cambodian students after school, because she felt, they were just like her parents, who depended on the children to speak English so they could make it in life.

She believed that every person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness regardless of gender, color, race, or religion.

In her final years Jonathan, Teresita and Paul Kurihara cared for Martie as a true labor of love. We thank them for giving Martie the chance to live in dignity at home and the compassion to transit in peace.  We are so grateful to everyone who helped Martie in Sanger, during her twilight years, but especially to the Almanza family, each and every one.


Martha Haruko Hirose Kurihara, better known as Martie,  was an ICA and EI supporter and was part of the Fresno Cadre under the San Francisco Region. She had all the books we read, the Red Book, the Other World Charts, and recruited and enabled many RSIs in the San Joaquin Valley and in California. She traveled to Chicago for summer programs and supported and participated in the movement as best she could while raising four children, of whom one is Evelyn Kurihara Philbrook still in the ICA. Grace and Peace,

~~  Evelyn Philbrook

What a wonderful gift you had – a mother who actually participated in your life as you all decided to care for the world.  I know you and grandkids were there as she began and completed her transition.  How wonderful for her that you all could guide her on her final journey of the spirit. I know your sorrow.  I miss my Mom as if she left just yesterday instead of 15 years ago.  …and I still talk to her about the unusual and continued growth that has been my life’s journey. Grace and Peace by with  you.

          ~~  Jean Long




Another one joins the Saints at the “pearly gates”. Amen.

          ~~  Marianna Bailey

Lets all sing to celebrate Marti’s glorious, completed life.  Hmmmmmm. Is that a good pitch?  Here we go


Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. 

They shall mount up on wings as eagles. 

They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint, 

Help us, Lord, help us, Lord, in Thy way.

Those who love the Mystery . . .

Those who live the risen life . . .

Those who serve the suffering world . . .

Those who die on the march . . .

I have a picture of your mom in my memory from our time with you in Memphis in the late 70s but I am not sure if she came to the house there or if I met her in Chicago or if I just pictured her after hearing you talk about her. Regardless, she is familiar to me, and a part of my strong memories of our community. Here’s to her life well lived and to all that she gave to you–and to all of us.

~~  Diann McCabe

Dear Evelyn,  I remember your mother at summer programs in Chicago.  She was delightful, went with the flow, however choppy it appeared at the time! and was very participatory.  I was so impressed with a mom who actually liked us all!  Thank you for her.  We are poorer without her.

          ~~  Clare Whitney

May the memories of your dear mom in any given moment or reverie be sweet and blessed with heavenly goodness. Grace & Peace,

          ~~  Dawn Collins

Dear Evelyn, I’ve not met your mother but I have heard you speak of her. The departure of our parents is a significant moment in our lives. My thoughts are with you. I wish you courage and comfort. Regards

          ~~  Dharmalingam

Evelyn, My heart is with yours  I know you will miss your Mother dearly  The only tine I met her was at your wedding.  She brought shrimp and rice and guided me in preparing it traditionally.  There was way to much ruce; but she was very happy with it and that is what matters most.  May she continue in pace.

          ~~  Judi White

In 1971, I was assigned to do a camp for the San Francisco Area children of colleagues who went to the summer program in Chicago in 1971,   We found a YMCA  or scout camp that wasn’t being used, near Sonora in the gold country. Wish I remembered how many children we had. Theresa, Carol and Elaine Butcher were there, and Libby Olson, who was 18 months old. I don’t remember how many weeks I was there, but area colleagues came and helped for a week at a time. We hiked through the forest to a lake to swim every day and read Little Big Man at meals. Martie came one week, and was such good and cheerful help. She and the Dyers maintained their local church cadre long after the “turn to the world”.

Jerry Carter, who was minister there at one time, moved to the coast the last I heard. Rev. Bill Dew , who recruited whole congregations to RS-1 and later was District Superintendent, would be in his 80’s. I don’t know his state of health. Dick Pitcher was a UMC pastor here in Lindsay who met with a “cadre” type group that included  Fred and me for breakfast weekly and would thus be somewhat familiar. I still see him on facebook.

          ~~  Jann McGuire