Cover photo for Mary Kawakami's Obituary
1912 Mary 2023

Mary Kawakami

December 12, 1912 — May 31, 2023

Mary Waki Kawakami spent her 110 years of life in the service of others. Mary was born December 12, 1912 to Kenshiro and Shizuko Furukawa Waki in Fort Lupton, Colorado. She was the oldest of four children and the first American citizen in her family. Mary loved her younger siblings-Teruji, George, and Smiley. She experienced loss very early in life. Teruji passed away when Mary was 6, and she lost her mother at 11. Mary tried her best to take on the role of a mother, even attempting to make a carp she had caught into a delicious family dinner. Her father later married Kazuno Kawahara, and she gained 7 more siblings: Sam, Mitsuo (Choke), Utao, Yomi, Wilma, Betty Jean, and Kemie.

When Mary married Charles Shigeyoshi Kawakami on November 29, 1935, she gained a husband and a beloved father-in-law, Harry Kawase. After living in Spring Canyon, Utah for several years, Mary, Charlie, and Harry moved to American Fork where as a family they raised two sons and two daughters.

Mary was a world-renowned hairstylist, which led to her opening Mary Kawakami's College of Beauty, a successful cosmetology school in Provo. She traveled throughout the United States and Japan teaching and demonstrating various hairstyling techniques as well as receiving awards for her innovative styles. She authored several books on the subject.

Despite her successful business, Mary's true legacy is her service. As a young mother, she taught a citizenship class for first-generation Japanese Americans, after the McCarran-Walter Act provided a pathway to citizenship for them. Her husband and father-in-law were two of her students. In 1976, she served on the Bicentennial Commission Committee for the city of Provo and traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet President Ford. After she retired, she served on the American Fork Arts Council and created a speech contest for high school students that awards scholarships to the top participants. She took her civic duty seriously and voted throughout her life, leading Governor Herbert to award her with a plaque declaring her Utah's oldest voter in 2016.

In her later years, Mary became a devoted and beloved member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and enjoyed spending time with her dear ward members, friends, and visiting teachers. She attended the temple at the age of 103 in 2016, becoming a bridge between her living and deceased family members. Through the extraordinary efforts of her granddaughter, Nicole, she gained a testimony of Jesus Christ, and we know that this knowledge brought her much comfort in her life.

Mary was also blessed with special loving people who enabled her to live out her long life in her own home. We are so grateful for Angelina, Dana, Sinai, and Virginia for their loving patience with our grandmother and for taking her on many adventures and Costco trips. Dr. Scott Smith was her kind doctor, offering excellent medical care as well as compassion. Her son, Paul, has spent much of his life supporting and serving his mother, and we are grateful for his sacrifice and his example of devotion to family.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Charlie; daughter, Marilyn; daughter-in-law, Anne Kanomata Kawakami; sisters, Smiley Amano, Yomi Kotoku, Mizuko Waki, and brothers, Teruji, George, Sam, Utao, and Mitsuo. She is survived by her sisters, Wilma Kimura, Betty Jean Mayeda, and Kemie Oda.

Mary loves her posterity, and they love and adore her. She is survived by her children: Ben Kawakami, Paul and LaVee Kawakami, and Smiley and Pier Sciume. Her five granddaughters, Aimee (Ryan) Stewart, Kimberly (Bryce Walker) Kawakami, Nicole Kawakami, Krista (Brent) Burgoyne and Kara (Paul) Petty are grateful for her life and stories that demonstrate love, endurance, grit, and determination as well as her Easter Egg hunts, which encouraged those same qualities. We are grateful for her long life that allowed her to influence and spoil her 12 great-grandchildren. We will forever be influenced by her legacy and love.

While Mary enjoyed flowers and beauty throughout her long life, in lieu of flowers, please consider honoring Mary's life by donating to a favorite charity or reaching out to someone in an act of kindness or service.

A viewing is scheduled for Monday, June 5 from 9:30-10:30 at Anderson's Mortuary located at 49 E 100 N in American Fork, Utah. A graveside service for family and friends will follow at the American Fork Cemetery, where Mary will be buried next to her husband of 68 years.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary Kawakami, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Public Viewing

Monday, June 5, 2023

9:30 - 10:30 am (Mountain time)

Anderson and Sons American Fork

49 East 100 North, American Fork, UT 84003

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Graveside Service

Monday, June 5, 2023

11:00 - 11:30 am (Mountain time)

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