In celebration of National Women’s History Month, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has given the Pioneer Women Award for the 11th Council District to Marjorie Morikawa, a longtime Westside activist and Hiroshima survivor.
Morikawa moved from Beverly Hills to a Venice farm in the 1920’s. She graduated from Venice High School before moving to Japan to care for her ailing grandfather. Six months later, her grandfather passed away and Morikawa was denied re-entry into the U.S. as tensions flared with Japan and the two nations stood at the brink of World War II.
Morikawa, a well-liked volunteer at the West LA Japanese Community Center Senior Nutrition Program, has devoted herself to her family and to community service despite a life of extraordinary challenges.
“Marge is a remarkable woman,” Rosendahl said. “She is one of the many unsung heroes who make our communities strong and who inspire us to face our own challenges with strength, grace and good humor.”
Rosendahl honored Murikawa at a March 28th ceremony at City Hall as part of the city’s annual Pioneer Women celebration. For the past 20 years, the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women has held the award ceremony in recognition of female leaders whose accomplishments have contributed to the strength and vitality of the city. The awards are presented to 16 women representing each council district and one woman selected by the mayor to represent the city at large.
“It is hard to imagine the amount of courage Marjorie must have had,” Rosendahl said. “A young woman living in the midst of a world war, her family sent to Japanese internment camps, struggling to survive.”
The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 7th, 1945. That day, Morikawa had a dentist appointment in the city, but declined to go because she was not feeling well. She and her aunt watched the bomb explode from their upstairs apartment window 12 miles away. Many of her friends and family perished in the blast.
Morikawa later worked in Hiroshima’s City Hall until she was able to reunite with her family back in the United States in 1950. She married in 1953 and had three children, Diane, Greg and Jason.
While raising her family, Morikawa attended nursing school and worked at Brotman Hospital in Culver City, fulfilling her childhood dreams of becoming a nurse. After her youngest child finished preschool, she started teaching at Stoner Recreation Center in West Los Angeles and taught pre-kindergarten at Nora Sterry School for 13 years.
In 1981, Morikawa was asked to volunteer at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple’s senior nutrition program. After two weeks, she became the manager and ran the program until last year.
Morikawa lost her husband in 2002 to Parkinson’s disease.
“Marjorie has lived a life of service,” Rosendahl said. “Today, her beaming smile and glowing energy are testament to how we can always help other people, regardless of the troubles we face.”