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Mitsuko Nohara was born in the winter of 1934 in Tomori, Okinawa, Japan, and entered Glory on January 20, 2024, at the Veterans Home in Fergus Falls, MN. One of five daughters born to Seizen and Kamado Nohara, she never knew her exact birth date, but was assigned December 26th upon her arrival to the United States some 27 years later. Perhaps her parents had an inkling of what her future held when they called her Mitsuko, meaning “shining child”, as it was a name peculiarly suited to her.
As a 9-year-old child, Mitsuko and her family suffered and survived the bloody 82-day Battle of Okinawa. They hid in caves and tombs, forced to scrounge for food as the war raged around them. Despite the loss of close family members, her home, many friends, and much of her hearing during the siege, Mitsuko overcame great personal heartache and went on to build a rich life defined by hard work and determination, honesty, endless curiosity, and great love.
In 1958, Mitsuko met and fell in love with Gilbert Hoehne, a young GI stationed in Okinawa. Gilbert returned home to Minnesota following his tour of duty. It took an act of congress to enable them to marry. With the help of Gilbert’s sister and Senator Hubert Humphrey, the US Congress acted under the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit Mitsuko entry into the United States for three months, and if married in that time-frame, permanent citizenship. The couple took no chances and married in Okinawa on November 17, 1961. Mitsuko, a proud US citizen, often said, “I been here so long, I’m American pioneer!”
Accustomed to a subtropical climate, Mitsuko arrived in Minnesota, without a coat, in the heart of a December blizzard. Mitsuko and Gilbert eventually purchased his father’s farm, south of Evergreen, MN, where they milked cows and raised crops and children together for 30-plus years before moving to Perham, MN.
Mitsuko was well suited for farm life and often had a week’s worth of bread rising on the counter before morning milking began. An avid gardener, her vegetable and flower gardens were prolific; she enjoyed canning and freezing the bounty, which she generously shared with her family. She also loved baking and cooking, keeping a tidy home, well-trimmed hair, clean shoe laces, fishing for sunnies from the shoreline, and grocery shopping.
Mitsuko was baptized at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Corliss on August 30, 1964 and was an active member of the church throughout the years. At age of 50, Mitsuko earned her drivers license and reveled in the freedom it brought her; the streets of Perham were never the same again!
Mitsuko loved with the same fierce determination with which she worked. She had high expectations for her children and encouraged them to be honest, work hard, and be wise with their time and money. She revered education and insisted that her daughters, Maria and Delia, earn college degrees.
Having faced severe hunger in her youth, Mitsuko found great joy in feeding people, particularly her family. While she undoubtedly loved her children equally, she usually insisted that Steve have the first serving and largest portion of food at any meal, and urged him to take a quick nap when he had finished eating. Mitsuko was devoted to her grandchildren and knew each grandchild’s favorite food. From homemade Italian spaghetti sauce to curry rice, fried rice, tempura, cinnamon rolls, pretzels, peanut butter cookies, molasses cookies and more, Mitsuko was often in her kitchen, gently stirring and kneading and frying and baking – an expression of love for her children’s children.
Mitsuko’s eye for detail sometimes found her walking (mid-service) from the back of the church to the front to smooth a cowlick or a collar; tucking in shirttails; straightening ties; or asking if you’d put on a little weight. Her bright smile, shining personality, and zest for life were a testament to her resilient and joyful spirit, proof that we are not defined by our tragedies, but by our love. We shall dearly miss our “shining child”, yet there is great comfort in imagining the smile on her beautiful face when the angels carried her Home and the Lord said, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant!
Mitsuko was preceded in death by her parents, Seizen and Kamado Nohara; sisters, Tomiko Nagata, Yoshiko Nakamura, and Toshiko Gushiken; and grandson, Logan Hoehne.
Mitsuko is survived by her husband, Gilbert Hoehne of Perham; children Maria (John) Minten of Brainerd, Steve (Tawnia) Hoehne of Frazee, and Delia (Jerry) Bruggeman of Brainerd; grandchildren Ryan (Camryn) Minten of Pequot Lakes, Rylee Minten of Fargo, Jordan (Kirstie) Hoehne of Dilworth, Skylar (Whitney) Hoehne of Frazee, Landon (Anna) Bruggeman of Loveland, CO, Brody (Maddie) Bruggeman of Brainerd, Elle Bruggeman of Fargo, Tia Bruggeman of Brainerd; great-grandchildren, Kash, Kaizlee, Rylee, Adlee, and Jack. She is also survived by her sister, Kazuko Kiyuna, of Okinawa, Japan, as well as many nieces and nephews.