"Her books and talks influenced me as a young wife and mother," writes Jennifer in GA. "I am a better woman, period, because of her."
Sheri Dew, president CEO of Deseret Book, observed that "Sister Okazaki had a unique style and distinctive gift for connecting with her audience — in both the written and spoken word. She was a master in drawing upon her own experiences in such a way that almost anyone could relate. Her success as an author was an outgrowth of her abilities as a speaker. No doubt she will be missed by many."
She also delivered what some consider a landmark 1992 talk on healing from sexual abuse that became a best-selling tape for Deseret Book (Deseret Book and the Deseret News are both owned by Deseret Media Companies) in 1993 and that she gave again at BYU in 2002.
Despite having to share their mother with so many others, Kenneth said that he and his brother Robert "always knew that, together with our Dad, we were her highest priority."
Others who knew her confirm her devotion to her family.
"She just delighted in her family," Smith said. "You could just see it and feel it whenever she spoke of them — which was frequently. I never met Ed — he had passed away by the time I knew Sister Okazaki — but she spoke of him with such tenderness and clarity, I have a feeling that if I meet him on the other side, I'll know him immediately."
"Ed" was her husband, Edward, whom she met when both were students at the University of Hawaii. Although he was not a member of the LDS Church at the time they were married, she said in an interview at the time she was called to the general Relief Society presidency that she knew him to be "a good man and a strong Christian." Edward was a decorated World War II veteran who joined the church 10 months after they were married and went on to become one of the first LDS mission presidents in Japan. Together the Okazakis had two sons and now, four grandchildren.
"She adored those grandchildren," Kenneth said. "Her eyes would just light up whenever she spoke of them."
Her love of children probably had something to do with her choice of careers. As an educator she taught elementary school in Hawaii, Salt Lake City and Denver. She also spent 10 years as an elementary school principal.
As a convert to the church (she was raised in a Buddhist family) and a person of Asian ethnicity, Sister Okazaki was unusual among the general leadership ranks of the LDS Church. Within the pages of her books she speaks openly of experiencing the sting of racism, the frustration of infertility, the pain and fear of cancer and the heart-wrenching death of her beloved spouse. Through it all, she said in 1990, "the Lord has been good to me. He has given me a lot of direction and guidance in my life. Now I want to do whatever I can to return my thanks to him."
Funeral services for Sister Okazaki are scheduled for Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. At the Holladay South Stake Center, 4917 S. Viewmont Street.
Quotes from Sister Okazaki's books:
"Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief." — "Lighten Up!"
"In principle great clarity, in practice great charity."
"If we don't have time for masterpiece moments, the very reason we came to earth is being wasted on us." — "Being Enough"
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