Wilma Ogata

STERLING - Wilma Ogata, 97, died on Friday, December 7, 2018, of complications from Parkinson’s Disease.  


Wilma was born in Chadwick, lived in the country, then moved to Polo and graduated from Polo High School.  Particularly interested in music, she sang, and played piano, saxaphone, and the oboe.


After graduation, she moved to Sterling and worked at the National Manufacturing Company, where she met her future husband, Kenje Ogata.  Kenje, who had his pilot’s license, enlisted in the army the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, and hoped to get into the Air Corps. Because he was Japanese American, that was very difficult, but after 2 years he achieved it.  In the meantime, Wilma and Kenje married. He was trained as a ball turret gunner in 1944 and sent to the air base at Foggia, Italy. Wilma waited while he was shot down twice, MIA for 2 weeks, and finished his 35 missions, honorably discharged in 1945.


Wilma worked as a retoucher for Personna Photographic studios. 1946 they had a daughter, and Kenje went to college on the GI Bill.  He attended the Dental School at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where they lived and worked for four years. They spent a year in Honolulu while he had an internship there, then returned home to Sterling, where Kenje set up his dental practice.  Wilma served as his chairside dental assistant and, as the practice grew, became his office manager.


Over the years Wilma and Kenje enjoyed a mutual love of Nature, music, the arts, and historical sites.  They regularly attended concerts in Sterling, Dixon, Davenport, and Chicago, and visited museums wherever their travels took them. At home, Wilma enjoyed hosting international students from colleges in Chicago who came to Sterling through a program at Thanksgiving, and generally returned often to visit. Iran, Bolivia, and France.  Wilma, who was very interested in other cultures and customs, kept up correspondence with most when they returned to their home countries (New Zealand,Iran, Bolivia, and France).


Wilma worked with her husband until they retired, when she was 75.  Meanwhile, she enjoyed working with organizations such as CGH, the American Cancer Society, and the Lutheran Brotherhood.  She was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sterling, though she joined the handbell choir at the Presbyterian Church in Sterling.  She was a constant reader and an accomplished seamstress, loved knitting and other handwork, and enjoyed cooking complicated international dishes, even on weeknights.  She was a vivid storyteller.


She survived two serious cancers, and believed that the prayers of friends and acquaintances made her recoveries possible.  Later in life she developed Parkinson’s Disease and was characteristically determined at every stage to remain as independent as possible.  This was aided by her lively senses of humor and fun. To the very end of her life, she retained a deep interest in and affection for other people, beginning with her family and friends.


Wilma was preceded in death by her parents, Hazel C. Fouke and Alvin Reiff; her husband,  Kenje; and her nephew, Kent C. Ogata. She is survived by a daughter, Kenjalin Ogata of Somerville, MA, and two nieces, Carole Ogata (Wally King) of Anna, Illinois, and Jayne Ogata (Matt Bernstein) of Milton, MA.  She also leaves a cousin, Amos Cunningham (Ruth) of Lancaster, PA, and a step-sister, Dorothy Bellows of Dixon.


Memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, December 13, 2018, Pastor Mike Durham officiating.  Visitation will be held from 3 - 4 p.m. prior to the service, at the funeral home. There will be no burial; cremation rites have been accorded.  


In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, or to the charitable organization of choice.