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The Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago -
Aiding those Deceased without Relatives

Robert Kumaki (L) and Karen Kanemoto
The Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago held its annual meeting on March 31 at the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC). Annual reports on finances and activities, as well as their plan for 2014, were presented.

In the 2013 budget, the expenses exceeded the revenue by $4,154, which was due to decrease in the amount of donations.
The 2014 budget is a deficit budget. This reflects the drop in donations and the current expenses.
According to the Mutual Aid’s report, if 2014 expenses exceed 2014 income, 2015 expenses will need to be reviewed. Mutual Aid has substantial reserves focused on its long-term sustainability. Income is decreasing and cutting expenses will impact core services such as Memorial Day and Annual Meeting. In addition, reliance on volunteers is eroding, and paid assistance may be necessary.

In the 2013 budget, Mutual Aid allocated $1,100 to support the Japanese American community, which took a hosting role for 2014 Lunar New Year Celebration, and it turned into a great success. It also supported 2014 Day of Remembrance.
In the 2014 budget, Mutual Aid will support 2015 Day of Remembrance and spend for the tuck-pointing at Montrose Cemetery Mausoleum, as well as its computer and software.
The funds for these events were provided by the late Tom Arai, who donated his money to the Mutual Aid in 1997.

2014 Elected Officers are: Secretary, Susan Kuse; Executive Secretary, Karen Kanemoto; Vice Presidents, Stanley Kurokawa, Sats Tanakatsubo, and Robert Kumaki; President, Calvin Manshio.

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About 300 Japanese were living in Chicago in the 1930s. These various residents, including Japanese restaurateurs, gift shop owners, traders, clergy, and international students, faced problems when it came to burying the deceased.
Many of these individuals, such as those working in restaurants, died single, with no money, and no relatives. As of 1934, about 50 people had died over the past 15 years, 40 of whom had no relatives and were buried through donations made by acquaintances.
Facing the situation, the need emerged for an official organization for mutual assistance, thus community volunteers held discussions and founded the Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago in January 1935.
Back then, it was difficult for Japanese to receive burials in Chicago due to racism, the only place being Montrose Cemetery on the north side of the city.
The Mutual Aid Society purchased a cemetery within Montrose and built a mausoleum in 1936. The mausoleum could be used to house the remains of deceased without relatives or unable to meet burial costs.
Since its founding, the Mutual Aid Society has continued to secure graves for burial at Montrose. In recent years, the Mutual Aid has buried two community members, who died without family or funds.

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General Information about Plots at Montrose Cemetery

The Mutual Aid currently has plots in the “Oakhill Annex” section of the Montrose Cemetery for sale.
Each plot measures 3’ x 8’ and can hold a standard casket. For urn burials, three opening of a plot can be made. Each opening holds two regular size urns when a vault is purchased to enclose the urns. Plots purchased from the Mutual Aid are $350 each. Temporary storing of urns in the Mausoleum is free.
All grave markers are the same color and size, 24” x 12” and 8” high in the back. The markers are called “Hickey Markers” and can be purchased from Montrose Cemetery.
Flowers may be planted in front of the marker 12” out and the with of the marker but not in back of the marker. The Mutual Aid does not permit evergreens in its section and does not accept memorial trees. During the winter months wreaths are allowed, but no winter blankets. Artificial flowers can be used. It is recommended that real flowers not be placed on the marker because the acid from the flowers will run down the marker and discolor the granite. All flowers and vases are taken up on March 1st and October 1st of each year for general clean up.
To consult the Mutual Aid Society to purchase a grave or join, call Ms. Karen Kanemoto at 773-907-3002