Keiro Chats: Meet Ralph!

Go back to other Keiro Chats

Name: Ralph Ichikawa
Age: 83
From: Continuing Education for Nikkei Widowed Inc., Torrance

What contributes to your happiness?
“Making other people happy makes me happy.”

What is your weekly schedule like?

I get up in the morning between 3:30 and 4 a.m., and take care of all my computer correspondence. I also eat breakfast and read the newspaper.

Then at 7 a.m., I work on my quilting, which I’ve been doing for 25 years. I also teach quilting at Faith United Methodist Church. Then, around 9 a.m., I go to the garage and work on my wood carving and ukuleles. My wife passed away 14 years ago, and since then I’ve been making ukuleles. I also manage an apartment in Redondo Beach.

And I teach cooking, too. There is a widower’s group at the church, which started about eight or nine years ago. I was teaching them how to cook, but now I cook for them once a month. Once or twice a year, we get together with the women’s support group and I cook for them too. I’ve made saba, unagi, and Portuguese bean soup in the past.

There are not enough hours in the day for me. I keep myself pretty busy. (laughs)

A couple of times a year, I go to Mammoth or Hawaii with my classmates or family to do some fishing. I used to go with my wife. I also like to do photography for groups I’m involved in, like the Continuing Education for Nikkei Widowed group, as well as any reunions I do.

What do you look forward to each week?

I always look forward to everything; there are so many things I can do.

What was the most important thing to you back when you were in high school?

I was very blessed as a kid and made a lot of friends. We still get together to this day. This past April, there were a bunch of us who went to Las Vegas. I organized the first five reunions by myself.

I’ve been lucky. What makes me happy hasn’t changed much since then.

What contributes to your happiness?

Making other people happy makes me happy.

What goals or aspirations do you have now?

Not really. … Every day, I have different goals to finish. One is to finish my ukulele, another is to finish my quilt … I have a lot of goals.

My goal is to make other people happy. I usually give away my quilts to friends and have kept only a few for myself.

What sustains your quality of life?

Health is the main thing, but also the will to go on, because at this age so many friends are going. A couple of months ago, my friend, who I went to lunch with every week, passed away.

I also think keeping in touch with others, to see people, and engage with them helps sustain my quality of life. I still correspond every day with my sister-in-law through email.

Any challenges that prevent you from maintaining your quality of life?

I used to golf, but quit just six months ago because of my eyesight and back problems, and the arthritis in my hand.

What in your life has most influenced the way you live today?

My parents. My father was an interesting man and good at math. He was a treasurer for many community groups he was involved with back home in Hawaii.

My mother was a caring lady. When it rained, she always brought me my rain coat, all the way across the pineapple field. She also used to help me with my homework. There is one thing I’ll never forget, when I was learning about the world capitals in second or third grade:

She taught me a way to remember the capitol of Hungary, which is Budapest. She said “a buta (pig in Japanese) is always hungry.”

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I think the biggest accomplishment is my family. I kept my family together. Not just my immediate family but my brother and sisters; we do things together a lot. We get together, talk story*. I have two sons and two granddaughters, who I try to see when I can.

*Talk story is a colloquial term in Hawaii that means to sit and chit-chat.

Go back to other Keiro Chats