When asked about his age, Dr. Bob Yonemoto will ask you to guess. Almost always, people will guess wrong – usually giving an age nearly a decade younger than he actually is. And that answer makes him smile.
“I’m pushing 100,” he says with a quick laugh. “I’ll be 98 in September.”
Even after two open-heart surgeries, a pacemaker, and nearly a century of sweet memories, Dr. Bob says he has a few secrets to living a healthy and full life, aside from daily exercise and eating sensibly. These tokens come from places like his faith and his years of experience as a doctor.
To this day, Dr. Bob still lives by these simple secrets and hopes others can learn from them as well.
Never Stop Learning
Dr. Bob is no stranger to learning. He credits his sharp mind to his constant curiosity and love for new things. He is a regular at Keiro classes, and most recently attended the Memory Kai class hosted at Nikkei Senior Gardens.
“I think you need to have curiosity in all the things that go on around you,” he said.
He has published nearly 40 research papers, given countless lectures on surgery, and trained many doctors. Dr. Bob even collaborated with renowned researcher Dr. Paul Terasaki, pioneering cancer immunotherapy together. And to this day, he says that his learning journey is still ongoing.
Recently, Dr. Bob has taken a special interest in astronomy – taking online post-graduate courses using the computer in his room.
His interest has even helped other residents explore outer space at Nikkei Senior Gardens. With the help of staff, Dr. Bob gave a seminar on solar eclipses, in both English and Japanese. They even had an opportunity to witness and experience an actual solar eclipse using special tinted sunglasses.
“That was an exciting time,” said Dr. Bob. And it’s all thanks to his quest to never stop learning.
Art for Everyone
His hands might have stopped performing medical miracles and surgeries, but they continue to create beautiful pieces of music and art. Today, the walls in Dr. Bob’s room look more like a gallery than a living room. On them, he hangs dozens of block prints, each of them hand-crafted through hours of dedication, time, and effort.
“I never did this before,” he said, pulling out one special piece that was published in his facility’s calendar. “It took about 15 hours altogether. But you see the small lines that you have to do. You have to have a fine chisel to chisel away. It requires a lot of dexterity.”
The gallery ranges from portraits of Mother Theresa to his wife, and even a self-portrait. But it doesn’t end there. Dr. Bob is also very fond of the harmonica, a musical art he picked up during retirement.
He has a favorite playlist of hymns and Japanese songs from childhood. Dr. Bob even performed a small concert and recorded several CD tracks full of songs in both English and Japanese such as, “Shino no Yoru”, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and “Amazing Grace.”
Kindness in the World
“I’m very moved by the goodness in the world. When I hear or see goodness, I want to support them,” said Dr. Bob, who is quick to point out other people’s kindness and cherishes those special gestures, as it is a big part of his character.
Over one holiday weekend, Dr. Bob packed sliced apples, candy, and some popcorn for the grandchildren of one of his Nikkei Senior Gardens neighbors. They were visiting from the east coast and preparing for the long flight home, And he wanted to send them off with something extra. Just days later, a letter came in the mail with thank you cards. It touched him that they would send gratitude his way.
Dr. Bob also remembers when a couple picked up a tab, not knowing that they had paid for his 60th anniversary dinner with his wife, Tomiye. The gesture caught him by surprise. It was sweet and unexpected.
These are just some of the few memories he holds dear to his heart.
And Dr. Bob is continuing to find ways to pay that kindness forward. He used to feed the homeless, and is now trying to help students achieve their educational goals. That has become a purpose he holds in life.
“I feel that you have live with a certain purpose,” he said. “And my feeling is that in order for your spirit to live on, you need to have interest in what’s going on in the world around you.”