At 99, Odenton woman celebrates a milestone


October 15, 2002|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

EIGHTY PEOPLE from around the world gathered recently at a local hotel for a Haku-ju party, celebrating the 99th birthday of Humi Akamatsu, an Odenton woman who was born in Japan.

Also known as the "White Celebration," Haku-ju is a milestone birthday. (In Japanese culture, when babies are born, they are said to be 1 year old. So, for the Japanese, the 99th birthday has much the same importance as Western culture gives to the 100th.)

The party featured white decorations, Japanese dancing, kimonos and, for the guest of honor, a traditional white cap and vest. Best of all, the family and friends of Humi Akamatsu enjoyed visiting with people they had not seen in many years and sharing their memories of the life of a remarkable woman.

She was born on Sept. 8, 1903, in Kobe, Japan. Life in those days, she would tell her daughters, was different from now, especially for girls. Japan a century ago was very much a man's world.

As a young woman, she married and had two daughters, Aiko and Akiko, and a son, Noburo. When her husband died, she was left to raise the three children on her own.

She worked as a housekeeper and a gardener in addition to caring for her own family, through hardships and war.

"She always took care of us," said Akiko. "She was the best mother!"

During World War II, Japanese life changed in many ways. Humi's daughters, rather than staying in the home, went out to work.

In 1951, Akiko married an American soldier and soon left to live in the United States. In 1960, Humi joined her in America.

Aiko also married an American serviceman and moved to Odenton, where her mother has lived since 1971.

It's a long way from Kobe, Japan, to Odenton. Yet Odenton is very much home to Humi. She says the weather is much the same. She still enjoys flower gardening. And she cherishes her time with her daughters and her many Japanese friends, who have adopted her as their "other mother" and often visit.

Aiko remembers the time when her own husband was ill and dying. Even though she was 90 years old, Humi cooked and cleaned and watched over her daughter. "She's a good cook, too," added Aiko with a smile.

Even though her sight isn't quite as good as it used to be and her energy level has dropped a bit, Humi's face beams with infectious good spirit. She is a remarkably fit woman for her age. She still enjoys people, flowers and life.

What is the secret of her happy old age? She tries to be calm and happy. She tries to be kind to others. And she tries not to worry.

Akiko adds that, for her mother, "The most important thing is a happy family - brother and sisters all together." That is why this party was so special. Even her son, who still lives in Japan, was able to attend.

Two years ago, Humi visited her old home in Kobe. She said it was good to see her son and the places she remembered, but said that everything has changed. Japan is a nice place to visit, but now she is an American citizen, and America is her home.

Next year, the family will celebrate her 100th birthday with a small party. The next big celebration will mark another Japanese milestone, when Humi turns 108.

Seton lecture

The Rev. Paul Surlis will discuss the future of the Catholic Church in a talk titled "Church Structures, Government and Possible Changes for a Global Church in the 20th Century." The lecture will be presented at the Seton Parish Center in Crofton from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. Information: 410-721- 5770.

Book signing

Two local authors, Madelyn Pyles, a Hanover resident, and Linda Watts, formerly of Glen Burnie, will be on hand Thursday to discuss their newly published book, Messages from the First Realm: Instructions on Living and Dying, at a signing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Book Rendezvous in Baltimore.

The book focuses on the power of forgiveness.

Information: 410-551-3265.

German food, fellowship

The Christian German-American Women's Group will meet Monday at noon in the social hall of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Odenton. The group offers area women a place to practice the German language and socialize in a Christian atmosphere.

This month's speaker will be Suzanne Sutton. After her presentation, a German pot-luck lunch will be served. Singing with Heidi Zech also will be featured.

Information: Irene Kucholik, 301-621-7862; or Karin Jackson, 301-855-6877.

Four Seasons club

Women in the Four Seasons community are invited to attend the next meeting of the Four Seasons Women's Club at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at Four Seasons Elementary School.

Planned activities include a new Christmas ornament, a bus trip to Pennsylvania and holiday programs. All funds raised by the club go to the community.

Information: Karen Bartimo, 410-672- 6513.

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