Kazuko “Kaz” Ross endured many hardships in her life but never let them interfere with her unwavering positivity.
She survived the Great Depression and imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp in Rohwer, Ark., as a teenager during World War II. More recently, her tenacity helped her survive six days trapped in her home with no food or water after falling.
“She could face absolutely anything and not be intimidated by it,” said her daughter, Deni Luna.
Doctors said Ross, a woman slight in stature but big in spirit, was likely within hours of death when Spokane firefighters rescued her on Oct. 12. She enjoyed the company of friends and family for more than two months after, and died in a hospital Christmas Day at the age of 84.
“Each day (after her rescue) we were just so thankful – and she was thankful – for the gift of life,” Luna said.
In a letter to Ross’ family, her good friend Stella McDonald expressed mixed feelings about Ross’ death.
“I knew this sad time was coming, but how beautiful that God would take my dear friend home on his birthday,” McDonald wrote. “The day is special and she was oh-so special.”
Ross was born in Northern California to Japanese immigrants but spent most her life in Spokane.
While her family was imprisoned, she worked in the camp’s makeshift pharmacy and later went on to apply the skills she learned there in positive ways – to earn a living as a dietitian, raise four children, and give back to her community.
“Even though it was nightmarish, she found the silver lining in absolutely everything,” Luna said. “She didn’t choose to focus on the scarring of it.”
Her family described Ross as a worldly woman of many talents and titles: mother, teacher, writer, businesswoman, philanthropist, friend.
“She was very independent,” Luna said. “Lots of different interests. Just very masterful at whatever she did.”
She taught nutrition at Washington State University’s Riverpoint Campus, directed a local alarm company, and practiced dietetics at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. She served with the Washington State Dietetics Association, the Spokane County Medical Society Auxiliary and other charities. She wrote about nutrition for British Vogue and other publications.
“She had a vivid sense of life,” said her daughter, Joan Chika Robertson. “Everywhere she went she made friends.
“She was a solid member of the community. She really loved Spokane, I think, above anything. She would work 24/7 just to make it a better place for people.”
Ross was also an avid gardener, raising rare plants from around the world, and she loved collecting arts and antiques, traveling and entertaining.
“She had just tons of energy,” Luna said. “She’d be out in her garden at midnight weeding.”
A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. at the Highland Park Methodist Church, 611 S. Garfield St. on Dec. 31. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be sent to the Kaz Ross Memorial Fund at Highland Park Methodist Church.
Ross is survived by her daughters, Luna and Robertson; her sons, Wade and Phillip Yamauchi; and five grandchildren. Ross married Robert Yamauchi then Gordon Ross and was twice widowed.