Rachel "Sparks" Blackman (seattlesparks) wrote,
Rachel "Sparks" Blackman

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[Life] Public Service Announcement

To those who wonder why I'm sort of withdrawn and mopey this week... my great-uncle Otis, professor emeritus at Doshisha University, just passed away this weekend, at the age of 84. (A more detailed article here.)

He's not actually my 'great-uncle,' he was my grandmother's second cousin or something similar; I don't actually recall the details offhand, because it never seemed to matter. To my mom and aunt Sally, he was always 'Uncle Otis,' so he's been 'Uncle Otis' or 'Great-Uncle Otis' to me.

For those who don't know, Doshisha University in Kyoto was founded by a former samurai (Niijima Jo) who attended Amherst in the last 19th century. Upon returning home, he founded Doshisha in Kyoto.

Otis was an Amherst graduate, who had been born in Japan (that branch of the family having strong ties there ever since the original Otis Cary arrived there as a missionary in 1877) and in 1947, Otis was appointed to go to Doshisha to represent Amherst, and to teach history. He did so, remaining at Doshisha and teaching actively until he retired about 14 years ago. After he retired he remained a professor emeritus of both Doshisha and Amherst.

It's interesting; if you go looking for his obituary, a LOT of the Japanese papers are carrying it. For years, the news stations would call him in as a cultural commentator whenever the US did something; they'd ask him to explain the American point of view in a way that would make sense. He became quite known for being able to bridge the cultural gap.

In many ways his passing is a blessing; the brilliant, erudite and amazingly understanding Otis we knew completely vanished into a haze of Alzheimer's nearly a decade ago, having moved to California where Uncle Frank and Aunt Chiaki could care for him. He hadn't really recognized anyone in some time.

Still, doesn't stop me from being a little mopey about it. Thinking back to visiting him in Kyoto. Remembering various family stories. Looking over my copies of his books...

(EDIT: Yes, I disabled comments. I'm not looking for sympathy, just explaining why I'm not great company this week.)
Tags: family, life, obit
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