Fumiko Ito always cracked an egg when she made a noodle or soup dish. Mark Ammendolia, her grandson, remembers watching his grandmother do this for the first time when he was six. As an adult, every time he cracks an egg onto a hot dish, he thinks of cooking with his grandmother and her delicious noodle bowls.
The two were close; they lived together for 11 years. After Fumiko suffered a stroke, she and her husband, Tsugio, sold their west-end Toronto home and moved in with their daughter Mary and three grandchildren. Mark remembers watching cartoons and learning the ins-and-outs of being an upstanding citizen from Fumiko.
“She was very old-school about things she learned back in Japan,” he says. “Politeness, everyone sitting at the table and eating together.
Died on April 20, 2020
These things were instilled in me and my siblings at a young age.” Fumiko was reserved when talking about herself and the Second World War. Still, tidbits of information about her life in Japan would occasionally come out over Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinners.
Living just outside of Hiroshima, Fumiko saw the mushroom cloud in 1945. She also lived through the Great Depression, and in 1958 she travelled to Canada by boat with her husband and daughter Kyoko. Although her native language was Japanese, she took English classes and was very social, always making an effort to chat with her neighbours and grandkids’ friends when they came over.
Mark says that when she went grocery shopping, it seemed everyone knew who she was. Fumiko was also a skilled knitter and sewer, creating blankets, bedspreads, hats and scarves. “Growing up, I had socks for years, just because my grandmother mended them over and over and over again,” Mark says.
Fumiko was always thinking about her grandkids, helping them with their schoolwork and teaching them about Japanese culture and language. Mark remembers practising writing in Japanese for 45 minutes every day with Fumiko, going through different words and perfecting his penmanship. He remembers his grandmother’s soft smile when he learned even simple words like cat or house.
This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.