Yasuko Ando Dunford
February 11, 1931 - October 1, 2021
Our beautiful, beloved, and loving Mom passed away on October 1st, 2021. She was born Yasuko Ando on February 11th, 1931, to Shigesaburo Ando and Masako Nakazawa in Nara, Japan. She was the oldest of five children. Japan was in the early stages of preparing for war.
Her father, a teacher, was drafted into military service in 1936, and she saw him only a few times during the war years when he returned home on leave. After Pearl Harbor, food in Japan’s industrialized cities was scarce, and life became very difficult for the family. Nagoya, where the family was living, was an industrial center for the Japanese army and was routinely bombed by Allied forces. This made growing and finding food supplies very difficult, leading to her brother’s death from malnutrition at just six years old. In 1944, the family received notice from the Japanese military that Mom’s father, who had served in Manchuria and the Marianas islands, was killed in action on the island of Saipan. His funeral was held in Nagoya, and the family, already grieving the loss of their brother, now grieved for Mom’s father as well.
Early in 1947, the family was surprised by an unknown visitor to their home. It was Mom’s father. His ordeal on Saipan is referenced in the 2016 World War II historical novel The Fleet at Flood Tide by James D. Hornfischer. The book used notes from her father’s interrogation report describing the U.S. Marines invasion of Saipan from the Japanese military perspective. The family was reunited after the long and arduous war. In later years, Mom would talk about the war and tell us stories of hardship, sacrifice, and triumph.
After the war, Mom graduated with a BA in English literature from Kinjo College in Nagoya, now Kinjo Gakuin University. Upon graduation, she went to work for the Red Cross where she met our dad, George M. Dunford, Jr., in 1952. He was an Air Force communication specialist at Nagoya’s Komaki Airbase, and Mom was a Red Cross English language Interpreter. They married in October of that year and had three weddings to satisfy the U.S. government authorities: a Shinto ceremony, a civil ceremony at the American consulate, and a Christian service at a hospital chapel. After the marriage, the Air Force, in order to discourage the union, transferred our Dad to Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville, SC without our Mom. Our Dad, undeterred, secured a special transport for Mom from his U.S. Senator. Mom left at midnight on a DC-3 and flew from Nagoya to Greenville, SC. with several stops in between. She was carrying their first child while on this long journey, and the trip was terribly uncomfortable. Their son George was born at Donaldson AFB in August of 1953. The young family moved to Dad’s hometown of West Chester, PA. and three more children followed: their son Douglas and daughters Yasmine and Jan. Mom and Dad were married for 61 years, ending only upon Dad’s death in 2013.
Our Mom was so many wonderful things to her children. She was soft-spoken, warm, loving, kind, and nurturing. She was artistic and creative. She was a master gardener and a gifted dressmaker. She could knit anything. Even when the family went through financial hardships, and there was little money to spend on clothing and food, her children were the best dressed and most mannered. Mom always lovingly cared for and nurtured her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She endured great hardship during war and while living in a sometimes-inhospitable foreign land. She would often say that despite all of this, she would not trade her time with family for anything.
Mom was always grateful for her family and friends. She is preceded in death by her parents Shigesaburo and Masako Ando, her brother Shimpei, her sister Hiroko, and our dad. She is survived by her children George (Cindy), Douglas (Ellen), Yasmine (Edward), and Jan (John); grandchildren Jennifer (Kyle), John (Emily), Douglas, and Sarah (Tyler); and great grandchildren Hunter, Jocelyn, Mackenzie and Kai.
We miss our beautiful Mom but know she and Dad are together again.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for a wonderful life.