Passed away on Saturday, October 21st in Waterloo at the age of 86.
Beloved wife of the late Charles Belair (2012)
Loving mother of Miya of Kitchener, step-mother of Judi Newall (Terry) of North Vancouver, Jim of Comox, British Columbia.
Cherished obaachan (grandmother) of Akina and Parker, Lisa, Michelle, and Mike. Great-grandmother to Dylan, Rebecca, Dom, Rosie, Carys and Lili.
Predeceased by her parents Hachiro and Miya Hayashi and sister, Harue Hayashi.
Keiko was born in rural Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. She spent high school and her early working life in Tokyo. She took a giant step and came to Canada in 1968 to marry Charles and start a new life, which she embraced. Coming from the metropolis of Tokyo to the then small, very German city of Kitchener was quite the culture shock but she made friends and began to integrate herself into the community. She joined the Garden Club, and the Rotary Anns. In later years, she would proclaim that her name is Keiko, not just "Charlie's wife".
Keiko spent her working life in Canada using her Japanese. She was a tour guide for Japanese tourists as well as corporate visits. She interpreted professionally for business visitors to Toyota, school boards, athletic competitions, as well as voluntarily for the Rotary Student Exchange program for many years. This connection she continued with Japan extended to assisting Japanese musicians and even producing piano and koto concerts here. Her love of classical music paved the way for her affiliation with the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. She took a group of musicians from the symphony to Japan for concerts. She also sat on the board for a short time, and donated generously to the symphony.
Somehow, she also squeezed in becoming a writer for the Japanese Canadian newspaper, Nikka Times. This freelance job was something she truly loved. She realized a dream of seeing her journalistic stories in print.
Her next big career was as a Japanese language instructor at Renison College. She taught university students for many years but did not stop there. She was instrumental in the formation of The East Asian Festival (now One Sky Festival) which continues today. Once retired from teaching, she formed the Sakura Japanese Language School for children in 2011, also at Renison University College.
Keiko also became a master of Ikebana flower arranging. She taught lessons to members of the Garden Club and her classes were always top hits. The Garden Club has an award in her honour. She also spent time doing Ikebana at Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. There was never a social event at the house that she didn't do a beautiful flower arrangement.
Keiko was also an accomplished calligrapher. She took lessons here from Noriko Maeda. She entered calligraphy competitions and did well.
Keiko was always up for a challenge. She put her energy and determination into everything she did. She was vivacious yet gracious and caring. She loved to celebrate and travel, both of which she did extensively with Charlie. As life slowed down, they enjoyed spending time in Mexico at their condo in Ajijic.
In their later years, Keiko and Charlie were generous in their philanthropy, donating to hospitals, Renison University College, and the arts.
In 2020 she received the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays from the Emperor of Japan for her promotion of Japanese culture in Canada. This recognition was a true honour for her and she was in awe, but very pleased.
As a wife and mother, she took on those roles with the same enthusiasm: cooking, baking, sewing and taking care of Charlie, always making sure he was fed, despite often travelling for work. She was always positive, supportive and grateful in life and with her children. She loved her family and friends. She spent her last years enjoying her grandchildren and watching them grow and perform at various activities. She was proud of her family and we were proud of her.
In 2005, Keiko beat stomach cancer and the aftermath of a total gastrectomy. From there, she went on to enjoy many more years until the cancer returned. Despite developing dementia, and other health issues she continued to inspire, have a sense of humour, love life, her friends and family.
Keiko would not have thrived as she had post gastrectomy and with the onset of dementia, had it not been for her dedicated caregivers ("my helpers"), especially Elizabeth Sykes, Eva Michno, AnnMarie Ragoonath, Petra Michno, and Roxanne Cowles who treated her like family.
Keiko was a favourite resident at Winston Park. She moved there in 2022. Her last days were at Hospice of Waterloo Region.
A big thank you to the caregivers at Hospice of Waterloo Region for their comfort and care, to some special staff at Winston Park, and to all of the friends that continued to visit while she was there.
Keiko's family will receive relatives and friends for viewing on Wednesday October 25 from 6-8pm, and Thursday, October 26 from 2-4pm at the Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick Street, Kitchener, 519-749-8467.
Funeral will be held at Henry Walser Funeral Home Ltd. on Friday, October 27, 2023 at 3:00 pm. Reception to follow at the funeral home.
Interment at Woodland Cemetery at a later date.
As expressions of sympathy, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society, Hospice of Waterloo Region, or https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-your-kwsymphony-musicians would be appreciated by the family (cards available at the funeral home).
Visit www.henrywalser.com for Keiko's memorial.